First Media affils drawing top bids

WASHINGTON – In another indication of red-hot broadcasting values, bidding for First Media Television’s three medium-sized market stations may reach $400 million, said sources familiar with the ongoing sale.

First Media is a privately held company that owns all of WCPX Orlando (CBS); WHNS Asheville, N.C. (Fox); and KPDX Vancouver, Wash. KPDX serves as the Fox affiliate in Portland, Ore.

First Media is attracting attention from several station groups looking to get bigger, including Gannett Broadcasting, Meredith Broadcasting Group, Post Newsweek Stations and Sunbeam Television Corp. Scripps Howard also was said to be interested in First Media, but bowed out after the price went out of its range, sources said.

One source who is participating in the bidding said the deal may close as early as next week. First Media is majority owned by the Marriott family. Chief financial officer Douglas Lowe refused to comment for this story.

One broker familiar with the deal said it is likely that the third-place Orlando station may be sold separately from the two other First Media properties. The third-place CBS affiliate is likely to go for more than $200 million, estimated Ted Hepburn, managing director of Ted Hepburn Co. “How far north of $200 million, I can’t say,” Hepburn said. The value of the other two stations also is expected to exceed $200 million.

Although Meredith is said to be interested in all three stations, purchase of the Orlando station would require the broadcast group to divest WOFL, also in Orlando, which it already owns.

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