Mission Accomplished: WPIX Option Exercised


In a busy Monday for Cincinnati-based media entity The E.W. Scripps Company, the official end of ownership of a former Tribune Media property serving the Big Apple has been acquired by a favored shared services partner of Nexstar Media Group.

The company led by Perry Sook has transferred its option to purchase Scripps’ affiliate of The CW Network, WPIX-11 in New York, to Mission Broadcasting.

With that, Mission has exercised its option to purchase the station.

The option price is $75 million, as previously reported by RBR + TVBR, plus accrued interest to be calculated on the period between the Sept. 19, 2019, purchase date of WPIX by Scripps and the option sale closing date.

Scripps purchased WPIX as part of its acquisition of 8 television stations in seven markets from Nexstar.

Those stations were being divested in connection with Nexstar’s acquisition of Tribune Media in September 2019.

In its purchase agreement with Nexstar, Scripps granted Nexstar the option to buy back WPIX. The option was exercisable from March 31, 2020, through the end of 2021. Now, Nexstar can effectively consider other properties in the New York market free of current local market ownership caps, should it wish to expand in the Tri-State Area.

Pending execution of a definitive purchase agreement and FCC approval, the transaction is expected to close later this year.

Scripps will remain the nation’s fourth-largest independent TV station owner, with 59 stations in 41 markets.

Proceeds will be used to pay down debt, Scripps Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Knutson said.

The acquisition by Mission, which handles sales and management for stations it arranges with Nexstar to handle production and news operations, is a far cry from what was originally anticipated in March 2018.

At the time, Sinclair Broadcast Group had filed an asset purchase agreement with the FCC noting it had struck an agreement to acquire and merge with Tribune Media.

To make the deal happen, Sinclair attempted to assign WPIX to a third-party owner but continue to operate it via a Joint Sales Agreement. As first reported by RBR+TVBR, WPIX-11 in New York was to be transferred from “WPIX LLC” to the similarly named licensee “New York (WPIX-TV) Licensee Inc.”

This entity was wholly controlled by Cunningham Broadcasting Corp., and its officer and director, Michael Anderson.

Cunningham describes itself as “an independent television broadcast company” that, together with its subsidiaries, owns and/or operates 20 television stations in 18 DMAs across the U.S.

Of these stations, 16 are operated “through various management agreements with Sinclair Broadcast Group,” illustrating that Cunningham — and not Sinclair — maintains control.

WPIX-11 was designed to join the group of stations falling under this group of Cunningham properties.

However, FCC scrutiny from Chairman Ajit Pai himself over Sinclair’s proposed merger with Tribune Media prompted the Commission to move forward with a Hearing Designation Order placing the deal in front of an Administrative Law Judge.

That never happened. Tribune and Sinclair scrapped the merger; Nexstar later stepped in and grabbed the properties.