ION Media Grows With TBN Quartet, L.A. Indie


ORLANDO — A West Palm Beach-based company that has emerged as the nation’s largest independent television broadcaster has closed on its purchase of four “zombie” stations from a non-secular entity, as well as its recent purchase of a full-power UHF facility in the nation’s second-largest TV market.

As RBR+TVBR first reported on June 11ION Media is acquiring the Channel Sharing Agreements forged following the FCC’s spectrum-relinquishing Incentive Auction for the following stations from Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN):

  • WDLI-23 in Canton, Ohio, serving the Akron area and Cleveland DMA.
  • WSFJ-51 in Newark, Ohio, serving the Columbus DMA.
  • WCLJ-27 in Bloomington, Indiana, which serves the Indianapolis DMA.
  • WKOI-43 in Richmond, Indiana, which primarily reaches the Dayton, Ohio DMA.

WKOI is operated by Ion via an LMA; the three other stations are O&Os featuring the TBN religious network.

Terms were not disclosed. The June move was an option exercise by Ion; its original option agreement was codified on Nov. 14, 2017.

The TBN deal’s closing follows the Sept. 18 closing of Ion’s acquisition of KILM-64 in the Los Angeles market from Sunbelt Television. The station is airing the Ion Life network. Ion in June agreed to purchase KILN-TV for $10 million.

The five stations give the company a total of 70 full power stations in 61 of the largest U.S. markets—making it the only network with owned-and-operated stations in 40 of the top 50 markets.

“These acquisitions follow through on our commitment to invest in ION’s broadcast television growth story,” ION Media Chairman/CEO Brandon Burgess said. “Over-the-air and over-the-top are the two fastest growing wireless delivery platforms for affordable quality television content. Our focus on UHF spectrum and quality content will allow us to best provide both OTA and OTT services to value-oriented distribution partners and consumers.”

The transactions also reinforce ION Media’s position as the largest U.S. holder of full power broadcast TV spectrum, covering 1.3 billion MHz-pops and 225 million people nationwide across all key metropolitan areas, in the advent of wireless spectrum innovation and development.

As part of the transactions, ION also acquired five broadcast towers from TBN, “in support of an expeditious spectrum repack of ION’s stations,” to conclude the Broadcast Incentive Spectrum Auction in coordination with the FCC.