Yeah, there has been a trickle of transactions seen at the FCC over the last several weeks.
But, that hardly means the M&A market was a dud in 2018. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence media research group Kagan, U.S. broadcast station mergers and acquisitions volume reached $4.31 billion in Q4 2018.
Driving the activity during the final three months of the year was a deal that was never supposed to happen.
In the largest deal of the quarter and year, Nexstar Media Group announced on Dec. 3 that it would acquire all of Tribune Media’s assets for $46.50 per share.
Kagan estimates the broadcast assets to be worth $3.51 billion.
Ranking second in deal value for the year was the just-completed $3.44 billion merger of Gray Television and Raycom Media, announced in the second quarter.
The TV deals put radio deals in the dust.
Other leading station M&A activity in the fourth quarter involved TV stations:
- On Oct. 29, Cordillera Communications announced the sale of all but one of its TV stations to E.W. Scripps Co. for $521 million. In addition to 15 main programming stations, the deal comes with eight low-power translators.
- The only Cordillera station not sold to E. W. Scripps was NBC affiliate KVOA-4 in Tucson, Ariz., as Scripps already owns the ABC and CW affiliates in that market. Instead, on Nov. 9, Cordillera filed the sale of its last station to Quincy Media for $70 million.
- On Oct. 31 Quincy Media also agreed to buy WSIL-TV, the ABC affiliate in the Paducah, Ky.-Cape Girardeau, Mo.-Harrisburg-Mt. Vernon, Ill. market, coming with a full-power and a low-power translator, for a total of $24.5 million.
- On Dec. 4, following the Cordillera purchase, E.W. Scripps also agreed to buy independent TV station WHDT in the West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Fla., market from Marksteiner AG Inc. for $25.0 million.
PALM BEACH POWERS RADIO DEALS
The top radio deal of the fourth quarter was Hubbard Radio’s $88 million purchase of Alpha Media stations in the West Palm Beach-Boca Raton DMA; Kagan incorrectly reported that Hubbard had acquired all of Alpha’s stations.
The stations include top-rated WRMF-FM 97.9 and WEAT-FM 107.9, WIRK-FM 103.1, WFTL-AM 850 and WMBX-FM 102.3, plus translator properties. It also ranked as the second-largest radio deal of 2018, topped only by Bonneville International Corp.’s $141 million purchase of eight radio stations from Entercom Communications in August — expected deals tied to Entercom’s merger with CBS Radio.
In total, 2018 closed with an $8.87 billion deal volume for U.S. broadcast station M&A, representing an increase of 8% compared to 2017.
The only significant radio deal in the fourth quarter was Saga Communications’ purchase of four FM stations in the Gainesville-Ocala, Fla., market from Ocala Broadcasting Corporation LLC for $9.3 million.