B’casters can now file duopoly apps

CBS-Viacom, Tribune and Sinclair will apply

WASHINGTON–Broadcasters will begin showing their cards at the FCC today when, for the first time, it begins accepting applications to own two stations in the same market.

Among the companies that have confirmed that they will be filing duopoly applications are CBS-Viacom, Tribune and Sinclair, but applications from others are expected to arrive at the agency by the time its doors close at 5:30 p.m.

Tribune will be filing for duopolies in Seattle and New Orleans, while CBS and Viacom will seek approval for duopolies in Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Miami and Pittsburgh. Sinclair refused to reveal the details of their combo plans.

There is a sense of urgency about filing the applications because the FCC has set limits on the number of combos that will be allowed in a market.

The agency requires that at least eight independently owned television stations remain in a market after the last combo deal is done. In cases where there are more applicants for duopolies than the market allows, the agency will decide which deals may close by lottery.

In an effort to avoid a lottery, many broadcasters are expected to rush their deals through the FCC as quickly as they can.

But Granite Broadcasting chairman and CEO Don Cornwell downplayed prediction of a sudden rush of applications, though he did say that the possibility for duopoly is “of some significance for particular markets.”

Cornwell noted that there have been relatively few duopoly announcements.

But just because broadcast companies are not making noise about potential duopolies does not mean that the marketplace is not active. Broadcasters may be avoiding the big splashy announcement which might only serve to encourage others to speed up their deal making for the same market.

“That is absolutely the case,” said one broadcast attorney in Washington, “There is a first mover advantage here.”

All markets will eventually consolidate as much as possible under current rules, predicted Pegasus prexy Nick Pagon, who said he won’t be filing any applications of his own today.