Station Deals Pick Up Amid Slow-Moving Ad Market

In a weakening national TV spot advertising market, now two major broadcasting groups have been sold in a week.

Liberty Corp., which has 15 middle- and small-market stations, mostly in the South, was sold to Raycom Media, the country's 17th-largest broadcast station group. On Monday, Emmis Commuications announced that it had agreements to sell nine of its 16 stations for $681 million to LIN TV, Gray Television, and Journal Broadcast Group.

Raycom is taking somewhat of a risk. The combined company would overlap in four markets--Wilmington, N.C., Columbia, S.C., Toledo, Ohio, and Albany, GA. Raycom currently has 38 stations covering 10.2 percent of the U.S. television households.

Raycom will ask the FCC for a waiver to operate the stations. The commission is considering a proposal that would rewrite FCC rules governing who can own how many stations, and in what markets. The Emmis sale had one similar station issue.

A slow-moving station sales market has been blamed on the weakening local TV advertising sales marketplace.

Part of the Liberty deal includes CableVantage, a cable advertising sales unit. Seven of Liberty's 15 stations are NBC affiliates. Raycom affiliates include 13 NBC, nine Fox, seven CBS, six UPN, two ABC, and one WB.