After a rather bustling 2016 and 2017 for broadcast television M&A, 2018 has gotten off to a slow start, according to S&P Global media research group Kagan.
In total, the broadcast TV space rang up $163 million in M&A during the first quarter.
The majority of that total involved transfers Sinclair had to make in order to push forward its proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. During the quarter, Sinclair transferred Tribune's legacy WGN in Chicago to an entity called WGN TV LLC for $60 million and transferred Tribune's WPIX-TV to New York (WPIX-TV) Inc. for $15 million. Sinclair retained the option to buy the stations back for the same price if ownership rules change, and it will operate the stations through shared services and joint sales agreements.
In February, Sinclair submitted a revised plan to the FCC outlining divestitures it intends to make regarding its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. One of the more surprising revelations in the report was Sinclair’s plans to sell off WGN-TV in Chicago, WPIX-TV in New York and KSWB in San Diego.
Other notable TV M&A during the first quarter, according to Kagan, was Gray Television’s $15.7 million deal for two full-power stations and two translators in Casper-Riverton, Wyoming. Also, Bayshore Television sold WJAX-TV in Jacksonville, Florida, to Hoffman Communications for $100,000 cash and the assumption of $12.2 million in debt.
In all, TV deals made up roughly half of the $311.9 million of broadcast M&A (including radio) during the first quarter of 2018. Kagan said it’s the lowest quarterly deal volume since the fourth quarter of 2016 and one of the four lowest in the past four years.