Sinclair continues to rework its station ownership as it tries to secure regulatory approval for its proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. As part of that, on Wednesday Sinclair said it is selling seven stations to 21st Century Fox, including KCPQ Seattle, WSFL Miami, KDVR Denver, WJW Cleveland, KTXL Sacramento, KSWB San Diego and KSTU Salt Lake City.
Several of those markets — Seattle, Miami, Denver and Cleveland — have strong NFL franchises where Fox has expressed interest in expanding its ownership presence. Earlier this year, Fox acquired rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football. Fox currently owns 28 stations in 17 markets. This purchase will give Fox a total of 35 stations and a presence in 19 of the top 20 markets, including the top three of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“This transaction illustrates Fox’s commitment to local broadcasting and we are pleased to add these stations to our existing portfolio. 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,” said Jack Abernethy, CEO of Fox Television Stations, in a statement. “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.”
Some of the stations in play, such as KDVR Denver, were previously owned by Fox, but were sold to Local Media LLC in 2007, which was then bought by Tribune in 2013.
Besides Fox, Standard Media, Meredith, Howard Stirk and Cunningham Broadcasting also are buying stations that Sinclair is divesting. When all of the stations are sold, Sinclair should cover 62 percent of TV households. That still exceeds the FCC’s existing ownership cap of 39 percent, but the cap is currently under review at the agency.
As part of the deal, Sinclair also renewed affiliation agreements with Fox stations in more than two dozen markets. Sinclair also secured an option to buy two stations from Fox: CW affiliate WPWR Chicago and Fox affiliate KTBC Austin, Texas. Those stations would be sold for pre-set prices of $15 million and $160 million, respectively.
Sinclair expects its purchase of Tribune to close sometime in the third quarter of this year, the company said.