The Justice Department has approved Nexstar’s $4.6 billion purchase of Media General, so long as it divests itself of seven more stations in six markets.
“The department said that without the required divestitures, the prices for broadcast television spot advertising and the fees charged to multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) – such as cable and satellite providers – for the retransmission of broadcast television programming to MVPD subscribers would likely increase in six designated market areas (DMAs) located across the United States,” the DOJ announced in a statement.
Nexstar, which has already sold dozens of stations to help consummate the deal, will also have to divest WBAY-TV in Green Bay, Wis. to Gray Television; WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Va to Graham Holdings; KADN-TV and KLAF-LD in Louisiana to Bayou City Broadcasting; WTHI-TV and WFFT-TV in Indiana to USA Television MidAmerica Holdings; KWQC-TV in Quad Cities
Nexstar will have to sell WBAY Green Bay to Gray Television; WSLS Roanoke-Lynchburg to Graham Holdings; KADN and KLAF-LD Lafayette to Bayou City Broadcasting; WTHI Terre Haute to USA Television MidAmerica Holdings; WFFT Fort Wayne to USA Television; and KWQC Quad Cities to Gray Television.
Without these divestures, the DOJ said, Nexstar would control between 41-100 percent of broadcast TV advertising in the respective designated marketing areas, and at least two stations in each market affiliated with a major broadcast network.
Before the divestures, the merger was set to create a broadcast behemoth, controlling 171 stations in more than 100 markets.
Fearing the leverage such an entity will have in broadcast retransmission licensing negotiations, companies like Dish Network and orgs including the American Cable Association have vigorously contested the deal with the FCC.
In an ex parte jointly filed earlier this month, Dish and ACA said, “Among other things, if approved, this transaction would create a new broadcast ownership conglomerate of unprecedented size and scope, one which will control the highest number of the Big-4 local broadcast stations in the country and have the power to threaten service blackouts to millions of consumers if any pay-TV distributor tries to hold the line on retransmission consent fees, which have risen more than 22,000 percent since 2005.”
An FCC decision on the deal should be announced shortly.
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