Sale reunites WITI with Fox ownership
In a deal that finally gives Fox ownership of local stations in the Emerald City, Nexstar agreed to sell their Seattle duopoly in exchange for the network’s duopoly in Charlotte.
The stations in the deal include Seattle Fox affiliate KCPQ-TV and My Network TV affiliate KJZO-TV; Fox-owned WJZY and My Network TV station WMYT; and Nexstar’s Fox affiliate in Milwaukee, WITI with the price tag around $350 million. Nexstar acquired Tribune Media in a $4.1 billion deal earlier this year.
The WITI sale returns the station to Fox ownership; the previous incarnation of Fox (News Corp.) owned WITI from 1997 to 2008. WITI was one of eight CBS affiliates who defected to Fox in 1994 in the New World deal as Fox would buy the company outright in 1997.
Fox stunned observers by acquiring then-CW affiliate WJZY and WMYT from Capitol Broadcasting in 2013, stripping the Fox affiliation away from WCCB-TV.
“This acquisition expands the reach of one of Fox’s core assets, our television stations portfolio, and further strengthens what is already a highly profitable and cash generative business. Fox Executive Chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch said. “The Seattle and Milwaukee markets both overlap with key sports markets, creating significant opportunities for growth and collaboration.”
Jack Abernathy, CEO of Fox Television Stations, added: “Acquiring stations in these high-performing NFC markets enhances our already strong nationwide footprint and further demonstrates Fox Television Stations’ commitment to serving our viewers, advertisers and local communities.”
Oddly, the stations Fox is selling to Nexstar is in an NFC market, home to the Carolina Panthers.
Fox is entering a market it long has covered since it is home to the NFC’s Seattle Seahawks while Milwaukee is home to the nearby Green Bay Packers as the network has rights to the NFC package and Thursday Night Football. In addition, Fox has rights to a few regular-season Major League Baseball games plus the World Series and home to the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers.
Fox had a tense relationship with then-owner Tribune Media over KCPQ, even going as far as serving a termination notice of their affiliation agreement in 2014. Fox proposed to buy a local station licensed to Bellingham, Wash. near the Canadian border but dropped those plans after deciding to stay with KCPQ, but with Fox increasing the amount of reverse compensation the station had to pay. When Sinclair tried to buy Tribune in 2017, it offered to sell several stations to Fox, including KCPQ and KJZO but fell through after the FCC put the brakes on Sinclair-Tribune.
As for Nexstar, the deal gives them two more stations in the Carolinas with the acquisition fitting nicely their portfolio as they also own outlets in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Subject to FCC approval, the deal is expected to close early next year. Once it does, Fox would own stations in fourteen of the top fifteen markets, with the exception of Boston’s WFXT, who Fox traded to Cox Communications in 2014 in order to acquire KTVU in San Francisco.