Gray Television CEO hints at additional M&A in 2018

(Gray.tv)

Megadeals like Sinclair buying Tribune and Nexstar buying Media General dominate headlines, but alongside those huge mergers broadcasters like Gray Television have quietly stayed active on M&A.

In the past four years, Gray has added 50 television stations in 30 television markets. Through that growth, the company now reaches more than 10% of total U.S. TV households.

Last year, Gray bought CBS affiliate WCAX-TV, which covers the Burlington, Vt./Plattsburgh, N.Y., market, from Mt. Mansfield Television for $29 million. It also paid $85 million to acquire two television stations from Diversified Communications: a CBS affiliate WABI in Bangor, Maine, and an ABC affiliate WCJB in Gainesville, Fla.

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Gray Television CEO Hilton Howell said that growth strategy, which focuses on state capitals and other areas with strong ties to government, will continue this year.

RELATED: CBS, Gray Television renew deal for 39 network affiliate stations

“We’re continuing to expand with a strategic focus on providing value to our audiences. We’re poised to scale our growth and are striving to build one of the most robust networks in the business,” said Howell.

As of now, Gray TV operates more than 100 television stations in 57 markets, and its stations broadcast more than 200 program streams and air approximately 7,200 hours of original local news content each month. Howell said that scale is putting Gray TV in a position where it can better compete with cable news.

Howell attributes Gray’s success in the local news market to its “centrist” approach, which he said helps produce balanced coverage of news that represents all contrasting viewpoints. He said Gray values this approach because “in the end, the airwaves belong to all of us.”

“In today’s diverse multiplatform news industry, we think that there’s room for both cable and local news. However, we do believe that we provide a unique look at local community news and experience that is different from what national cable news companies produce,” said Howell.