Another major shift in TV stations' business: 21st Century Fox announced it is buying seven big-market Sinclair Broadcast Group stations for $910 million.
The deal helps Sinclair complete its $4.6 billion merger for Tribune Media, which continues to be scrutinized by federal regulators. The agreement had been expected.
The stations include KCPQ Seattle, WSFL Miami, KDVR Denver, WJW Cleveland, KTXL Sacramento, KSWB San Diego, and KSTU Salt Lake City. Except for the Miami outlet, all are Fox TV network affiliate stations. WSFL Miami is an affiliate of The CW.
As part of the deal, Fox entered into new network affiliation agreements with Sinclair -- as well as licensees of certain stations serviced by Sinclair.
It will also grant Sinclair options to acquire two of Fox’s stations: the CW-affiliate WPWR in Chicago (where Fox currently has another station in the market) and Fox-affiliate KTBC in Austin, Texas, for around $15 million and $160 million, respectively.
This will give Fox Television Stations coverage of nearly half of all U.S. households, as well as having a market presence in 19 of the top 20 DMAs, including the addition of key markets that align with Fox's sports rights.
For Sinclair, the move lessens concerns from federal regulators that a merger with Tribune Media would be anti-competitive.
Recently, Sinclair has made other announced moves to lower its potential reach of all U.S. homes via TV station ownership, should the deal be approved. It would sell some 23 TV stations.
Initially, the Tribune Media announced deal would have given Sinclair up to 70% of U.S. TV homes. Before the Fox announcement -- and with the potential of other Sinclair TV stations -- estimates were that Sinclair would now have around 58% coverage.
Current FCC regulations are U.S. TV station ownership has a cap of TV stations reaching 39% of U.S. TV households -- though now discounts can now be made in owning UHF stations.
Fox says before the deal was announced ownership of its TV stations was at 37.4% coverage. Estimates are the Sinclair deal would grow its reach by 9.1 percentage points to 45.9%. But factoring in the discount, it will still be under the 39% level.
For its part, 21st Century Fox announced a $52.4 billion deal back in December to sell about half its business -- including many cable TV networks, its TV production and film businesses -- to Walt Disney Company.
Fox said its ongoing efforts would focus on its TV stations, Fox broadcasting network, national sports programming, and Fox News Channel/Fox Business.