Fox, Blackstone teaming to top Sinclair's bid for Tribune, report says

Fox investors reportedly have pressured the broadcaster to snap up Tribune's 42 stations. Image: Coolcaesar/Wikimedia

21st Century Fox has reportedly found a willing partner in equity firm Blackstone so that it can outbid Sinclair for Tribune Media.

According to CNN, Fox and Blackstone are looking to form a joint venture in their bid for Tribune. Blackstone would fund the acquisition and Fox would kick in all of its owned-and-operated TV stations.

The reported plans for Fox and Blackstone align with reports from March that suggested Fox investors were urging the media company to jump in with the help of strategic investors and snap up Tribune’s 42 broadcast TV stations for itself.

RELATED: Fox might stick wrench into Sinclair’s pursuit of Tribune: report

In addition, Tribune also holds stakes in cable networks WGN and the Food Network.

The reports of Fox ramping up its efforts to win Tribune’s assets arrive as Sinclair is reportedly only a week away from solidifying its bid for Tribune. According to Bloomberg, the deal could be priced in the high-$30s per share. As of 10:30 a.m. EDT today, Tribune Media stock was trading around $38.75 per share, putting its market cap at around $3.34 billion.

Meanwhile, Sinclair has stayed busy by buying Bonten Media’s 14 TV stations. Sinclair paid $240 million for Bonten’s 14 stations in eight markets. The stations reach about 1% of U.S. households and only two are in top-100 DMAs, according to TVNewsCheck.

The stations included in the deal are:

  • WCYB (NBC) and WEMT (Fox) in Tennessee-Virginia
  • WCTI (ABC) and WYDO (Fox) in North Carolina
  • KCVU (Fox), KRCR (ABC), KRVU (MNT), KUCO (UNI), KAEF (ABC), KBVU (Fox), KECA (CW) and KEUV (UNI) in California
  • KECI (NBC), KCFW (NBC) and KTVM (NBC) in Montana
  • KTXS (ABC), KTES (METV) and KTXE (ABC) in Texas

RELATED: FCC reinstates UHF discount, likely opening broadcast TV M&A floodgates

All of the M&A talk – including word that broadcasters like Nexstar Media, CBS and Meredith are preparing for future acquisition – swirling around the broadcast industry comes as the FCC is taking steps to relax ownership rules governing TV station groups.

The FCC recently reinstated the UHF discount, which allows broadcasters to count UHF stations at 50% toward the ownership cap, which limits broadcasters’ nationwide audience reach to 39%. And now the FCC has officially opened a docket, named “Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative,” for reviewing media ownership rules, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has promised to “modernize.”

“The last thing broadcast needs are outdated rules standing in their way,” Pai told an audience during last week’s NAB Show in Las Vegas. “We want to make sure the rules match the reality of 2017, not 1987.”