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New Station Group Giant Emerges as Nexstar, Media General Finalize $4.6 Billion Merger

Variety logo Variety 1/18/2017 Cynthia Littleton
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A station group colossus was born this week at a time when the most prominent local broadcasters are increasingly focused on using their scale to craft a new breed of regional networks.

The union of Irving, Texas-based Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Richmond, Va.-based Media General will bring together 171 stations that reach nearly 39% of U.S. TV households across 100 markets. Most of the stations are in markets below the top 25, giving renamed Nexstar Media Group heft in the heartland regions that have taken on new importance in the media world following the election of Donald Trump as president.

Nexstar and Media General had both been voracious buyers of TV stations during the past decade. Media General had been set to merge in 2015 with another company, TV station and magazine owner Meredith Corp., when Nexstar swooped in with a rival offer.

The addition of Media General’s 71 stations puts Nexstar in a league, in terms of station volume and reach, with Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tribune Media and Tegna Media. Those station groups and others are increasingly fielding original series and digital multicast channels that can be distributed across their groups and syndicated to outside broadcasters.

Sinclair this week announced another multicast channel, dubbed Charge, in partnership with MGM focused on action-adventure movies and TV shows. Tegna Media unveiled an ambitious plan to produce a daily live series focused on news, pop culture buzz and trending topics in social media dubbed “Bold,” that will be updated throughout the day for various time zones.

Nexstar’s largest markets are San Francisco, where it owns the indie KRON-TV, Tampa, Fla., and Phoenix, Ariz. The new company is so big that Nexstar had to divest 13 stations to secure FCC approval of the deal. The sale of those stations brought in $548 million, Nexstar said.

In announcing the deal on Tuesday, Nexstar chairman-CEO Perry Sook emphasized the reach of the enlarged company but stressed that the individual stations will remain focused on serving their local markets. The need for broadcast TV stations to clearly differentiate their programming from the array of cable and digital competitors has been a theme for broadcasters who gathered this week in Miami for the annual National Assn. of Television Program Executives conference.

“Our increased scale will allow us to create news bureaus in more state capitals than any other broadcaster, and Nexstar Media Group will produce over 3,500 hours a week of local news for medium and small markets while employing almost 10,000 people,” Sook said. “Our teams consistently leverage localism to bring news, entertainment, information, services and value to consumers and advertisers through Nexstar’s television, digital and mobile media platforms, and their dedication is reflected in our strong standings in the local communities where we operate. The focus of our corporate, station-level and digital teams on local leadership, local vision and local targeting is the foundation of our positive near and long-term financial outlook.”

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