Another television group exits Illinois
Atlanta-based Gray Television announced Monday the acquisition of Quincy Media’s television and radio properties for $925 million, a move expected as the Quincy, Ill.-based company announced late last year it was putting their media properties up for sale.
Once the deal is completed, Gray would own stations in 102 markets, mostly mid-sized and small metros. Several Illinois network affiliates in the deal include KWQC (NBC) in Davenport, Ia. (serving Rock Island and Moline); WEEK (NBC) in Peoria; WREX (NBC) in Rockford; WSIL (ABC) in Carbondale/Harrisburg; and WGEM (NBC), the flagship station in Quincy, Ill., where Quincy Media is headquartered. Also included in the deal are News/Talk WGEM-FM and Sports Talk WGEM-AM. It is not known if Gray plans to hold on to those radio stations or deal them to a major radio chain.
Gray is also acquiring Quincy’s WSVJ in South Bend, Ind. The one-time ABC and Fox station – whose affiliation went to a digital subchannel of Sinclair’s WSBT in a complicated deal in 2016, is now affiliated with Weigel Broadcasting’s Heroes & Icons diginet. Gray also plans to divest NBC affiliate WPSD-TV in Paducah Ky. , which serves several counties in Southeast Illinois.
Gray has been growing its portfolio in recent years, including the acquisition of the Raycom Media group in 2018. Quincy Media’s newspapers, including the Quincy Herald-Whig, are expected to be sold to someone else. Late last year, Quincy Media officially put itself on the block.
“Many of our shareholders, board members and employees are descendants of two families who have been in the company for 95 years and in the media business for over 100 years. The focus has always been on serving our communities with the best in news, public service and community involvement. It is a legacy of which we are very proud”, said Quincy Media President and CEO Ralph M. Oakley in a statement.
“While this is the end of a long and successful chapter, it also represents a wonderful new chapter for the communities we serve and our employees with the acquisition of the stations by Gray. They are great operators and people and our philosophies very much mirror one another.”
The Quincy newspaper-TV-radio combo is one of the last few remaining in the U.S., even as the FCC is in the process of abolishing the cross-ownership rule, which has been in place since 1975 as the issue is currently in front of the Supreme Court. But those combos – which received waivers when the rule took affect, are being voluntarily broken up as the aura of owning a newspaper, TV, and radio station has fallen out of favor in recent years, even as the FCC deregulates the business as all three platforms are seeing their audience erode due to digital alternatives (streaming, Pandora, satellite radio, etc.)
For example, the former Chicago-based Tribune Co. split into two companies in 2014: Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing. The former was sold to Nexstar; the latter is in the process of being taken over by Alden Capital, a hedge fund. For now, Tribune Publishing remains based in Chicago.
With the sale of Quincy Media, Illinois is now left with only one major television group, the aforementioned Weigel, based in Chicago and owns stations here, Milwaukee, Rockford, and South Bend; MeTV and several other diginets; and MeTV FM. In addition to Tribune, other former broadcast groups formerly based here include Barrington Broadcasting and Burnham Broadcasting.