The Rumors Were True: FOX Locks Up 7 From Sinclair


HOLLYWOOD, FLA. — Exactly five months ago, Financial Times — one of the world’s most-respected business news organizations — reported that Sinclair Broadcast Group would “soon” be making a Form 314 filing with the FCC that would see the transfer of control of “about 10 stations” to 21st Century FOX.

They were mostly correct: A deal was formally announced prior to the Opening Bell on Wall Street Wednesday (5/9), and seven TV stations are trading hands.

The deal could have a major impact on the Miami TV market.

A definitive agreement with Sinclair and Tribune Media was announced by 21st Century FOX this morning, with a price tag of $910 million.

The stations being acquired by 21st Century Fox comprise six FOX affiliates and the CW affiliate serving South Florida.

In Seattle, the station heading to Fox is — as predicted — Tribune-owned KCPQ-TV, branded as “Q13.” It’s the FOX affiliate in the market.

In Denver, Sinclair owns no stations. But, Tribune does. This means FOX affiliate KDVR-31 is becoming a Fox O&O; Sinclair will take ownership of KWGN-2, the market’s affiliate for The CW.

Meanwhile, FOX will now have an O&O in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, as it is acquiring Tribune’s WSFL-39. This presents an interesting scenario, as the FOX affiliate in the market since Jan. 1, 1989 has been WSVN-7, the highly successful local news leader owned by Ed Ansin‘s Sunbeam Television.

With FOX now in possession of an O&O, could an affiliate swap be in WSVN’s future? Ansin’s assistant could not immediately comment on the matter when reached by RBR+TVBR in Miami.

In Boston, Sunbeam’s WHDH-7 lost its NBC network affiliation at the end of 2017, with NBCUniversal’s debut of WBTS-TV, branded as “NBC10.” This made WHDH an unaffiliated station with a heavy news presence similar to that of WSVN. It’s sister station is WLVI-TV, which channel shares with WHDH. And, it happens to be The CW affiliate for Boston.

The other stations 21st Century FOX is acquiring are Tribune’s FOX affiliate in Cleveland, WJW-8; KSWB-5 in San Diego; and FOX affiliate KSTU-13 in Salt Lake City, the latter of which RBR+TVBR correctly predicted would be sold.

The seventh station going to Fox: KTXL-40 in Sacramento, which in late April saw its repack process shift from Phase 8 to Phase 9—a move that places all repacked broadcast television stations in the Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto DMA in Phase 9.

KTXL is one of six Tribune stations that in September 2016 were part of a multi-year renewal agreement with Fox.

Meanwhile, Sinclair has been granted the option to acquire two Fox-owned stations: The CW affiliate serving Chicago, WPWR-50 in Gary, Ind. Fox presently has a duopoly in the nation’s third-largest market.

Additionally, FOX affiliated KTBC-7 in Austin could soon be heading to Sinclair.

This would give Sinclair a duopoly in Austin’s state capital, where it already owns CBS affiliate KEYE-40. Sinclair competes against Nexstar (owner of the NBC affiliate) and TEGNA (owner of the ABC affiliate), in addition to Univision, in Austin.

Fox expects “potential proceeds of approximately $15 million and $160 million, respectively.”

Not included in the deal, as predicted in January: Tribune-owned FOX affiliate WDAF-4 in Kansas City, or stations in Milwaukee, or Indianapolis.

“This transaction illustrates Fox’s commitment to local broadcasting and we are pleased to add these stations to our existing portfolio,” Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy said. “With this acquisition, we will now compete in 19 of the top 20 markets and have a significantly larger presence in the west, which will enhance our already strong platform. This expansion will further enrich our valuable alignments with the NFL, including our new Thursday Night Football rights, MLB and college sports assets.  We are also happy to add many talented Tribune employees to our group, some of whom we know well.”

Given those comments, Sunbeam could very well be losing its FOX affiliation.

The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2018.

In related news, 21st Century FOX entered into new network affiliation agreements with Sinclair and the stations it operates via JSAs and/or shared services agreements.

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