After having three of its stations lose their Fox Network affiliations to in-market competitors, Nexstar Broadcasting has gone to court. It is not, however, suing Fox or its News Corporation parent, but rather Granite Broadcasting, whose station picked up the Fox affiliation in Fort Wayne, IN.
Nexstar filed a federal civil antitrust lawsuit in the Northern District of Indiana against Granite Broadcasting Corporation and its wholly-owned subsidiaries WISE-TV License LLC and WISE-TV, Inc. According to Nexstar, it filed the litigation “to remedy the anticompetitive impact that has been caused and will be caused by Granite’s efforts to monopolize local advertising sales in the Fort Wayne, Indiana Designated Market Area resulting from exclusive affiliate agreements Granite has executed with two of the four major television networks.” Nexstar added that as a result of Granite’s efforts and its shared services agreement with Malara Broadcasting in the Fort Wayne DMA, Granite will control local television advertising sales for stations affiliated with the Fox, NBC and ABC networks, as well as the CW and MyNetwork TV networks. Nexstar’s lawsuit asserts that Granite’s actions violate Section 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, Section 7 of the Clayton Act, and Indiana antitrust law.
Nexstar is seeking a judgment that will cause Granite’s ability to control the advertising sales and revenues of at least one of the three “Big Four” network affiliations to be terminated. The lawsuit is also seeking treble damages for injuries that it has sustained and will sustain as a result of Granite’s anticompetitive acts.
“Nexstar believes Granite’s actions to monopolize advertising sales in Fort Wayne will allow it to raise advertising rates to local businesses that are dependent on a fair and competitive television network marketplace. The increased advertising rates will likely drive increases in the prices of goods and services for consumers as well. Granite’s actions are detrimental to Fort Wayne’s economy and clear violations of several national and local laws. Nexstar is seeking to have these actions enjoined as soon as possible for the sake of advertisers, consumers, and competitors, particularly in light of the continued, challenging economic environment,” the company declared in announcing the lawsuit.
A phone call from RBR-TVBR to Granite’s President & GM for the Fort Wayne market, Jerry Giesler, seeking comment on the lawsuit was not immediately returned.
The court filing comes just days after Nexstar announced that it has retained a financial advisor for a possible sale of the company.