Ion Media is buying full-power UHF broadcast TV stations in St. Louis, Missouri (WRBU-TV); Columbia, South Carolina (WZRB-TV); and Boise, Idaho (KTRV-TV).
The transactions will expand the company’s station footprint to 63 stations in 58 U.S. markets.
“Growing our TV station portfolio will give U.S. households access to much-needed affordable independent entertainment, kids and lifestyle programming,” said Brandon Burgess, chairman and CEO of Ion Media, in a statement. “These three important acquisitions will add 5 million viewers to our networks’ audience reach.”
In addition to growing its broadcast reach, the new deals will make Ion one of the largest U.S. holders of full-power UHF broadcast TV spectrum, covering 1.22 billion MHz pops across many key metropolitan areas.
Ion, an independent broadcast group that launched in 2007, has been one of the fervent supporters of the FCC’s decision to reinstate the UHF discount. Last week, when a federal court denied the request for an emergency stay of the rule, Ion was one of the first to cheer the decision.
"We are doubly pleased that—after the FCC already saw the merits of our arguments—the Court agreed that changing the long-standing running rules through a stay is unwarranted, given the harm on independent broadcasters like ION Media," said Burgess in a statement obtained by Broadcasting & Cable.
The UHF discount, which allows broadcast TV owners to count UHF stations at 50% toward the nationwide ownership cap, will likely play a key role in allowing groups like Ion to continue growing through M&A.