Sinclair Broadcast nears deal for Tribune Media

Sun May 7, 2017 9:50pm EDT
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By Liana B. Baker and Jessica Toonkel

(Reuters) - Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc (SBGI.O: Quote) is nearing a deal to acquire Tribune Media Co (TRCO.N: Quote) for close to $4 billion after prevailing in an auction for one of the largest U.S. television station operators, according to people familiar with the matter.

A potential deal for Tribune, first reported by Reuters, could come as soon as Monday, just weeks after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to reverse a 2016 decision that limits the number of television stations some broadcasters can buy.

    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, named by President Donald Trump in January, is planning to take a new look at the current overall limit on companies owning stations serving no more than 39 percent of U.S. television households.

Still, a combined Tribune and Sinclair could surpass this cap and face some regulatory challenges which could result in divestitures, analysts said.

The combination of Sinclair and Tribune would be a competitive blow to Fox because the added scale would give Sinclair more leverage in negotiations to carry Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's (FOXA.O: Quote) local networks. Together the companies would own a large chunk of Fox broadcast affiliates around the country.

Fox Networks Group Chairman Peter Rice said at the Milken Institute Global Conference last week that Fox was looking to buy Tribune Media because "having more scale and more control of distribution is important."

Twenty-First Century Fox was in talks with Blackstone Group LP (BX.N: Quote) last week about submitting an offer to buy Tribune Media, sources said at the time. Nexstar Media Group Inc also considered an acquisition of Tribune Media, sources have previously said.

Fox never submitted a bid, according to a source familiar with the matter.   Continued...