Sinclair Broadcasting is buying rival television station operator Tribune in a $4 billion deal. The deal combines Tribunes 39 television stations with Sinclair’s 154.
Ownership of local television stations have undergone tremendous consolidation in recent years. When broadcast television were the only available networks, there was little need for scale in the business and many owners were companies that also owned newspapers. Today, a growing percentage of revenue for television stations is coming from fees paid by cable systems to carry them.
Sinclair has received criticism in the past for requiring its television stations to report news from conservative viewpoints. As part of the deal, Sinclair will be receiving the cable station WGN, but it is unclear what, if any, plans it may have for the station.
The geographical coverage that Sinclair gains as part of the deal will make it a truly national company and it has the goal of using its broadcast signals to provide data services.
Tribune had been part of a larger organization that owned various media assets, including newspapers. After a leveraged buyout led by real estate mogul Sam Zell failed, the company was forced into bankruptcy. After emerging, major shareholders including Oaktree Capital split the publishing and broadcast assets into two companies.
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