WASHINGTON — Nexstar Media Group, which recently announced plans to acquire Tribune Media and become the largest owner of TV stations in the country, has settled with the Justice Department as it investigates broadcasters’ sharing of competitive advertising rate information with rivals.
Six other station groups, including Tribune Media, reached a settlement with the DOJ last month over the rate-sharing practices.
“Robust competition among broadcast stations allows American businesses to obtain competitive advertising rates,” said Makan Delrahim, the chief of the Justice Department’s antitrust division. “The unlawful sharing of information reduced that competition and harmed businesses and the consumers they serve.”
The Justice Department got wind of the rate sharing as it was reviewing Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed merger with Tribune last year. That deal ultimately was abandoned after the FCC sent the merger to an administrative law judge for review.
The other companies that have settled with the DOJ include Raycom Media Inc., Meredith Corp., Griffin Communications, and Dreamcatcher Broadcasting. If the settlement is approved by a federal judge, Nexstar and the other companies will be prohibited from direct or indirect sharing of competitively sensitive information.
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The information sharing was of “pacing” data that compares revenues for certain periods to those at the same point in previous years. According to the DOJ, with that information, “the stations were better able to anticipate whether their competitors were likely to raise, maintain, or lower spot advertising prices, which in turn helped inform their stations’ own pricing strategies and negotiations with advertisers.”
The antitrust division said Nexstar has also agreed to assist the ongoing investigation.