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Nexstar Closes $4.1B Tribune Deal, Becoming No. 1 U.S. Local TV Station Owner

Dade Hayes

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Nexstar said Thursday it has closed its acquisition of Tribune Media for $7.2 billion, including debt, vaulting to the position of No. 1 owner of local TV stations in the U.S.

The deal caps a remarkable rise for a company that consisted of a single radio station barely a generation ago. Sinclair Broadcast Group had reigned for years as the top station owner. Tribune, which spun off its print assets in 2014 after a bankruptcy process, last year got close to being acquired by Sinclair, but that deal ran aground over regulatory issues. Sinclair has rebounded from that setback to become a rising force in the regional sports networks sector.

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Under the terms of the deal, Nexstar acquired all outstanding shares of Tribune Media for $46.687397 per share in cash. That includes about $0.187397 per share to reflect the final closing date, which came three weeks after the original target of August 31.

The new company’s 197 stations in 115 markets will reach 39% of U.S. TV households, the maximum reach allowed for a single owner under federal regulations. Dallas-based Nexstar gains important footholds in top markets like New York, LA and Chicago, as well as picking up cable network WGN America and a 31% stake in Discovery’s Food Network. Nexstar has grown markedly in recent years as a consolidation wave reshaped local broadcasting.

Following through on previously announced plans for divestitures, Nexstar said Thursday that it sold off 21 TV stations for a total of $1.33 billion to Tegna, E.W. Scripps and Circle City Broadcasting.

Nexstar said it expects to achieve about $185 million in operating synergies in the first year, which is a higher tally than the $160 million it had previously estimated.

The acquisition “increases Nexstar’s geographic diversity and audience reach with national
coverage and an expanded presence in top 50 DMAs, while offering complementary media assets and
investments, scale-driven synergies and further cash flow diversification,” CEO Perry Sook said.

Three former members of Tribune’s senior management team have moved into comparable roles at Nexstar.

Sean Compton has been named EVP of WGN America, WGN Radio and Director
of Content Acquisition. He will oversee those former Tribune Media properties, as well as the digital multicast television network, Antenna TV and will oversee Nexstar’s programming acquisitions across all TV platforms.

Dana Zimmer will be EVP and Chief Distribution and Strategy Officer, overseeing the distribution and monetization of Nexstar’s broadcast and TV content portfolio to cable, satellite, telco and digital media distributors. She will also manage relationships with Nexstar’s network partners at FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC and The CW.

Gary Weitman has been named EVP and Chief Communications Officer, leading internal and external communications, media relations, employee communication and the company’s intranet and website.

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