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ION TV’s a head-scratcher

Kojak1_04Still don’t know what to make of what’s going on at ION TV, the erstwhile Pax TV, and haven’t for a while now. The West Palm Beach, Fla.-based company seems to have been held in limbo by payments it owed to NBC Universal that the former Paxson Communications couldn’t possibly have paid back. (Back in 1998 NBC struck a doozy of a deal that called for Paxson to essentially reimburse NBC for its minority-interest investment in a few years if the Peacock wasn’t happy with the company’s progress.) Now it’s being bought out and taken private by a Chicago-based investor group, Citadel Investment Group, but they’re still giving NBC U a chit to buy back its stake in ION at a later date. Another investor group with the funny name of Contrarian Capital Management was also trying to bid for the company in May but were beaten back without much of a fight, apparently, given that Citadel and NBC U are friendly partners in their transaction. The latest press release on this buyout process is comical for its sheer confused-ness, take a look. A lot of the convolutedness in NBC U’s dealings with the company has to do with station ownership limits — NBC U would be over the FCC’s 39% national household reach limit if it took full control of ION too (considering that the Peacock already has NBC and Telemundo O&Os). It’s just always struck me as strange that a station group with 60-odd outlets with decent signals in top markets can’t make a go of itself as a network, or even an ad-hoc group of stations doing interesting things on the local level. I suppose it is all about the programming, local, national or whatever. So we’ll see what the rest of this year brings for the company. Until then, if you’re looking for less-than-stellar prints of repeats of “Kojak,” “Green Acres,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “Mama’s Family,” you know where to turn. (Besides, now I have an excuse to have a “Kojak” shot on my blog.)

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