×

Sinclair Broadcast Group Nears Deal to Buy Tribune Media

Sinclair Broadcast Group is near a deal to acquire Tribune Media, one of the largest television station owners in the U.S., for approximately $4 billion, Reuters reported on Sunday.

If a deal goes through, it would be the first major broadcast acquisition in the weeks since the FCC reversed a 2016 media ownership ruling, a decision that greatly expanded the number of TV stations a single entity can own. The news of Sinclair and Tribune closing in on an agreement comes after reports emerged last week that equity firm Blackstone and 21st Century Fox were teaming up on a bid for Tribune Media.

The acquisition of Tribune would make Baltimore-based Sinclair the largest TV station owner in the country, by reach and by total number of TV stations. It would expand the company’s presence for the first time into the top five TV markets of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas. Sinclair at present owns or operates 173 TV stations, with Washington, D.C. (No. 7 overall behind San Francisco) as its largest market.

The deal, if approved by regulators, will extend Sinclair’s clout throughout the TV universe, with MVPDs and the major networks, notably with Fox. Tribune owns 14 Fox affiliates, which will add to Sinclair’s roster of at least 35 Fox affiliates. The desire to thwart Sinclair from gaining even more affiliates was part of the motivation for Fox and Blackstone to team up on the Tribune bid. If nothing else, the Fox-Blackstone bid probably drove the price up for Sinclair.

According to Reuters, the deal values Tribune at $44 per share. Tribune stock closed Friday at $40.29, giving the company a market cap of $3.5 billion. Sinclair’s market cap as of Friday stood at $3.79 billion, with shares closing up 20 cents to $36.95. Sinclair shares are up 10% for the year to date amid speculation that the company would make a big acquisition. Sinclair chairman David Smith is known to have met with President Trump after the election to urge him to loosen ownership restrictions in an effort to allow local TV station owners to better compete against digital giants.

Reps with Tribune and Sinclair declined comment on Sunday, as did Fox.

Tribune Media’s holdings include 42 stations, which reach 43% of U.S. households, as well as cable channel WGA America and WGN Radio. It also owns a 31% stake in Scripps Networks Interactive’s Food Network cabler.

Sinclair apparently beat out Fox for the acquisition, according to a report from Bloomberg, as well as an expected bid from rival mega-broadcaster Nexstar. Fox Networks Group chairman Peter Rice confirmed that the company was looking to buy Tribune in partnership with Blackstone last week at the Milken Institute Global Conference.

According to Bloomberg, while the deal could be announced as early as Monday, it is not finalized and could still fall apart.

Although the Trump administration’s FCC has vowed to ease media ownership regulations, the Sinclair-Tribune union will surely draw intense scrutiny in Washington and among media watchdog groups for its sheer size and scope. The mega-merger and the FCC’s deregulatory moves have made other sizable TV station groups acquisition targets, including Tegna Media and Hearst Television.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • TV Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville'

    TV News Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville' Role in 'Arrowverse' Crossover

    In today’s TV news roundup, Erica Durance reprises her “Smallville” role in the CW’s annual “Arrowverse” crossover, and Showtime shares with Variety an exclusive sneak peek at the return of “The Circus.” FIRST LOOKS “2020 is the most important election of our lifetime,” Alex Wagner says in a new trailer for the fourth season of [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content