21st Century Fox to buy Sinclair stations

Fox re-purchases three stations; Chicago’s WPWR could switch owners as a result

Exactly a year after Sinclair Broadcasting announced its purchase of Tribune Media, the Hunt Valley, Md. company announced Wednesdaya the sale of seven Fox affiliates from the deal to 21st Century Fox.

Of the seven, three Fox are re-purchasing: KDVR in Denver; WJW in Cleveland; and KSTU in Salt Lake City. All three were sold to Local TV LLC in 2007 when then-owner News Corp. was looking to trim non-strategic assets. Local TV was purchased by Tribune in 2013.

Fox also purchases CW affiliate WSFL in Miami; currently WSVN is the market’s Fox station. Fox would likely relocate to WSFL; The CW could land at current My Network TV affiliate WBFS, who is owned by CW part-owner CBS and is in a duopoly with WFOR-TV.

And with its purchase of KTXL in Sacramento and KSWB in San Diego, Fox now has a huge imprint in the state of California with six owned-and-operated stations in addition to duopolies in Los Angeles and San Francisco. KSWB has been a Fox affiliate since 2008, when it wrested away the network from Televisa’s XETV, who no longer targets English-language audiences.

Fox also gets KCPQ in Seattle, who it long coveted (but not sister station KJZO, which remains with Sinclair.)

As part of the deal, Sinclair gets an option to purchase CW affiliate WPWR here in Chicago and Fox-owned KTBC in Austin, Tex. For WPWR, Sinclair would likely take up the offer sooner than later so it would pair up with former CW affiliate WGN-TV, part of the Tribune deal. If this happens, expect some huge behind-the-scenes shifts regarding programming and digital subchannels as management shifts from WFLD-TV to WGN in the duopoly. WPWR is also expected to remain its My Network TV affiliation – given Sinclair owns numerous CW and My Network TV affiliates including Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Cincinnati.

At one time, Fox tried to trade WPWR to Tribune for KCPQ, but the deal never materialized.

Sinclair’s Fox stations also receive extensions on their affiliation pacts, officially ending any possible deal with Ion Networks.

Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy said: “This transaction illustrates Fox’s commitment to local broadcasting and we are pleased to add these stations to our existing portfolio. With this acquisition, we will now compete in 19 of the top 20 markets and have a significantly larger presence in the west, which will enhance our already strong platform. This expansion will further enrich our valuable alignments with the NFL, including our new Thursday Night Football rights, MLB and college sports assets. We are also happy to add many talented Tribune employees to our group, some of whom we know well.”

Now this is contingent on whether or not the Tribune-Sinclair deal is approved by the FCC. The deal was announced exactly one year ago Monday, and the agency has the shot clock currently stopped at 167 days out of 180. Sinclair recently resubmitted its proposal for the fourth time, modified so they would have a better chance of passing muster with government officials and the Justice Department. It looks like the fourth time indeed is the charm.

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