21st Century Fox and private equity firm Blackstone Group may bid for the 42-station Tribune Media, the Financial Times reports. The Fox and Blackstone bid would be a challenge to a rival offer from Sinclair, the nation’s largest station ownership group.
Tribune stations are affiliated with all major broadcasters, including ABC, NBC, CBS and the CW, but Fox affiliates make up the largest group. Some the 14 Tribune-owned Fox affiliates were formerly owned by Fox, including KDVR in Denver, WITI in Milwaukee, and KTVI in St. Louis.
Tribune and Fox each own stations in 7 of the nation’s top 10 markets creating the potential for divestitures in several markets if the deal goes through.
However, the FCC’s reinstatement of the UHF discount earlier this month could allow the combined Fox and Tribune to keep stations in many markets. In Chicago, for example, Fox O&O WFLD is a UHF station, while Tribune’s WGN is not. 22 of the Tribune stations are UHF.
Current FCC regulations allow one entity to own up to two TV stations in the same DMA, presenting challenges to the two largest markets. Fox already owns WNYW and WOR in New York, while Tribune owns WPIX. And in Los Angeles Fox owns KTTV and KCOP, while Tribune owns KTLA.