WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. — Some 50 years ago in Cape Canaveral, Fla., the Apollo program was just five months away from the launch of Apollo 11 — the rocket that placed the first humans on the moon.
It now appears a different kind of Apollo launch is in the works, and involves two TV stations serving the Kennedy Space Center, within the Orlando DMA, and 12 others.
The only thing that awaits is official confirmation from Cox Media Group President Kim Guthrie.
According to a Reuters report distributed late Sunday, Apollo Global Management LLC is close to a final agreement that will see it “acquire” Cox’s 14 over-the-air TV stations.
If correct, changes at the following stations could be seen soon:
- ATLANTA: WSB-2 (ABC)
- BOSTON: WFXT-25 (FOX)
- CHARLOTTE: WSOC-9 (ABC) and WAXN-64 (Unaffiliated)
- DAYTON: WHIO-7 (CBS)
- JACKSONVILLE: WJAX-47 (CBS) and WFOX-30 (FOX)
- MEMPHIS: WHBQ-13 (FOX)
- ORLANDO: WFTV-9 (ABC) and WRDQ-27 (Unaffiliated)
- PITTSBURGH: WPXI-11 (NBC)
- SEATTLE-TACOMA: KIRO-7 (CBS)
- TULSA: KOKI-23 (FOX)
The deal, according to both Reuters, is valued at $3 billion.
Reuters has been fairly dependable of late on such stories. As such, the Apollo acquisition of privately held Cox could prove Guthrie true that a partnership — even a financial one — is in the cards. Unlike a merger with Nexstar Media Group or Sinclair Broadcast Group, Cox management would likely stay in place.
For Apollo, it would put its hand deeper into the ownership of TV assets — something it has openly expressed interest in for weeks. As RBR+TVBR reported on Dec. 3, 2018, Apollo teamed up with Brian Brady’s Northwest Broadcasting in a now-failed bid to acquire Tribune Broadcasting. This followed rumors that emerged in mid-July 2018 that Apollo was joining P2 Capital Partners in investigating a bid for Nexstar Media Group; P2 has a very small stake in Nexstar, and at the time no one suspected Tribune’s acquisition by Sinclair would be aborted. Now, Nexstar’s spins from its Tribune buy are being eyed by Apollo.
All the while, chatter regarding the future of Cox Media Group’s 14 stations amid rumors the radio stations it owned were also in play grew louder among industry observers, brokers and, in private, top leaders.
RBR+TVBR‘s first report that Cox would be entertaining offers of some sort, depending on the definition offered by Guthrie, came on July 24, 2018.
In mid-March 2018, Guthrie told RBR+TVBR that talk of the company selling off nearly all of its radio stations was unfounded. It turned out that the chatter focused on the wrong media, as Cox confirmed that it “will explore strategic options” for its 14 TV stations, including partnering or merging the stations into a larger company.
What Cox was not doing, Guthrie told RBR+TVBR, is an outright divestment of the properties. “We are looking not to sell our stations, but to pursue a merger or partnership,” she said via e-mail.
That didn’t stop rumor-mongers from suggesting that companies including Graham Media Group, or Gray Television, Meredith Corp., Hubbard Broadcasting or even Hearst Television could be in the mix.
What remains unclear is the future of WJAX-47. RBR+TVBR exclusively reported in late February 2018 that this facility was being spun to Vero Beach, Fla.-based Bill Hoffman, the former CMG President. Hoffman is buying the station outright for $12.17 million; Cox is retaining its shared services agreement, enabling it to effectively control WJAX-47.
While Reuters’ sources noted that a last-minute deal dissolution could still happen, as no final signatures to the agreement are set as of yet, both Reuters and CNBC hint that a deal announcement could be just days away.