Scripps Goes For A SoFla Duopoly

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BOCA RATON, FLA. — For 57 years, South Floridians have enjoyed NBC programming on a giant of the airwaves, The E.W. Scripps Co.‘s West Palm Beach-based WPTV-5.


How important is the station to Scripps? In 2016, it said goodbye to its Treasure Coast Newspapers group, comprised of dailies serving Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties in the northern portion of the West Palm Beach DMA with its sale to Gannett. This made WPTV its lone revenue generator in the market.

That’s about to change, thanks to an action undertaken by the FCC 13 months ago.

Günter Marksteiner has agreed to sell what is “the nation’s oldest high-definition TV station” to Scripps in a deal finalized November 16 and submitted in a Form 314 filing with the Commission on December 4.

The station set to trade hands and become a much-younger sibling to WPTV-5 is WHDT-9, licensed to the Martin County city of Stuart.

It’s a fully licensed facility, and can be found on Channel 17 on Comcast systems across the West Palm Beach-Boca Raton DMA.

Marksteiner is pocketing $25 million for the sale of WHDT — a sum substantially higher than the two stations in the DMA fetched in the FCC’s incentive auction. WFCG, which is moving to a high-VHF channel, gave Christian Television of Palm Beach County some $3,359,483 in auction proceeds for saying goodbye to its spectrum. For South Florida PBS, a sum of $4,696,299 was brought in for relinquishing the broadcast spectrum of WXEL-42, now a sibling of Miami-based PBS giant WPBT-2.

The somewhat-informal six-page sale agreement notes that Scripps had the option, due within 10 days of the November 16 execution date of the asset purchase agreement, to assume WHDT’s tower lease at the Raycom Media tower site in Lake Worth, Fla. This is key to WHDT’s presence in the DMA, as the city is just south of West Palm Beach and in the heart of the most populated areas of the market.

What Marksteiner is retaining are the WHDT studio and offices and any equipment located there. This suggests that WHDT will be run out of WPTV’s West Palm Beach facilities.

Marksteiner is also keeping any repack reimbursements from the FCC for any money spent prior to closing.

Serving as Scripps’ legal counsel in this transaction is Ken Howard of Baker Hostetler. Acting as Marksteiner’s legal counsel is Scott Flick of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

As stated in paperwork filed with the APA, WHDT is not a top-four station in the West Palm Beach market. As such, ownership by Scripps is allowed — regardless of rule changes seen in November 2017.

That said, “modernization” of the FCC’s ownership rules seen 13 months ago come into play, because WPTV is party to a Shared Services Agreement with FOX affiliate WFLX-29, owned by Raycom Media.

Under this agreement, WPTV provides technical, promotional, programming, information technology and website services to WFLX. The programming services consist of news programming, including local news, weather, traffic, sports and public affairs and constitute less than 15% of WFLX’s weekly programming. The deal was forged in March 2011.

Still, prior to November 2017 this deal would have come under possible scrutiny from the Commission. Notably, Scripps also leases space in its office building to Raycom in connection with the WFLX agreement.

For Marksteiner, the $25 million payday for WHDT is significantly more than he earned from the July 2014 sale of WLPH-CD 44 in Miami. The facility, which was a simulcast partner of WHDT, fetched $5.1 million. The buyer was LocusPoint, with Patrick Communications serving as the broker.

WHDT dates to May 2000. On June 1, 2001, it conducted the first HD broadcast by a TV station in the U.S. Marksteiner acquired WHDT in 1996.

With the sale of WHDT, Marksteiner’s holdings are reduced to WHDT-LD in Boston; and WHDN-CD, WXDT-LP and WZDT-LP in Naples, Fla.