The New York Post is reporting the Walt Disney Company is looking into selling its eight owned and operated stations.
With station groups like Sinclair Broadcasting buying up local stations left and right, local affiliates are quickly becoming the new hot property. The Post said the move could be worth billions.
In July, Tribune paid $2.73 billion for 19 stations owned by Local TV, while Sinclair paid $985 million for seven Allbritton-owned stations. Earlier, Gannett bought Belo and its 20 stations for $1.5 billion.
There has been a wave of consolidation as companies buy up TV stations to reap the rising “retransmission” fees cable companies and other distributors cough up for the right to carry broadcast signals.
The more stations a company owns, the more leverage it has when it enters negotiations with pay-TV providers such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
In September, CBS president and CEO Les Moonves told analysts that the local station business is better than ever.
Disney sold WJRT in Flint, MI, and WTVG in Toledo, OH, in 2010 and has also recently laid off staff at several stations.
Currently Disney owns WABC in New York, KABC in Los Angeles, WLS in Chicago, KGO San Francisco, WPVI in Philadelphia, KFSN in Fresno, KTRK in Houston and WTVD in Raleigh-Durham.
ABC declined to comment.
>Update: the Wall Street Journal reports that while Disney did consider selling the stations earlier this year, the group is no longer for sale.
Disney ended up deciding a sale didn’t make strategic sense. That hasn’t stopped lots of rumors circulating in recent weeks – the New York Post reported on Friday that the company was mulling a sale of the stations, for instance. One person close to the situation says the stations are not for sale.