Can WTHR Stay Above the Big Ownership Fray?

By Kevin Eck 

With four separate ownership groups ranging from WISH owner Media General which will soon be part of the supersized Nexstar Media Group, to WTHR owner Dispatch Broadcasting which only counts one other station on its roster, Indianapolis is a microcosm of the local TV ownership landscape around the U.S.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports WTHR is the only Indianapolis local station that hasn’t been involved in some sort of ownership deal in the last five years. Some experts wonder if tiny Dispatch Broadcasting can hold its own against the new media giants.

“When you see [WISH parent] LIN get acquired by Media General, and now Media General looking to become part of a bigger company, station operators have to start thinking for their own protection that it may be time to see what the market offers,” Perry Metz, gm of Bloomington public station WTIU told the IBJ.


While Dispatch officials insist they have no interest in being acquired or merging, they said they will consider strategic acquisitions. Last year, the Wolfe family that controls Dispatch sold its newspaper holdings to focus on broadcasting. It also owns two radio stations.

“Dispatch is content with what it has,” [WTHR president and gm Larry] Delia said. “But if there’s something out there that interests them, they’re open.”

The company has been approached about selling its stations, he said, but isn’t interested.

“Dispatch is like the little engine that could,” said Robert Unmacht, a partner at iN3 Partners, a Tennessee-based investment banking consultancy focused on broadcasting and technology. “And it’s done so to this point with remarkable success.”

There’s a good reason for that, Delia said.

“We have zero debt in our company. And that allows us to do the right things,” he said. “It allows us to invest in the right things, the right people, and have the right resources, which allows us to have the best TV station in each market we’re in.”