Immediately after nixing the $85M sale of CBS WTVR-TV Richmond to Sinclair, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division is suing Raycom in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to make sure it finds a new buyer for the station pronto. "The divestiture is necessary to preserve competition for advertisers who buy broadcast television advertising time in the Richmond market," said Deborah A. Garza, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division. "Without this divestiture, advertisers on local Richmond stations would have paid higher prices." Technically, Raycom has 30 days to divest the station, although it will also benefit from another month’s grace period and may be able to put the station into a trust failing to meet that deadline.
Raycom says it is putting maximum effort into selling the station, including contacting those who showed interest in the station prior to the Sinclair deal. The company also notes that it has been fielding inquiries on WTVR from companies who may be testing the acquisition waters.
Raycom acquired NBC WWBT-TV in a group deal with Lincoln Financial, and provides services for CW WUPV-TV, and elected to spin its own WTVR. Sinclair, to make room in its own portfolio, was planning on selling its own Fox WRLH-TV to Carma Broadcasting, with whom it would then set up an LMA arrangement. Sinclair said that deal will likely fall along with the disintegration of the WTVR sale.
RBR/TVBR observation: Cooperation between separately-owned local television stations is currently a popular operational arrangement in markets large and small. Joint sales agreements and shared service agreements are commonplace. Why it is suddenly a problem in Richmond is beyond us. Especially when you consider that this is coming from the same DOJ that saw no problem whatsoever with the creation of a government-sanctioned monopoly in the marriage of XM and Sirius.