Tribune Media and Nexstar in $4.1bn local TV takeover

WGN TV station flag.

US media group Nexstar is set to become the country’s largest operator of local TV stations after a deal to buy Tribune Media for about $4.1bn (£3.2bn).

It comes three months after Tribune’s sale to Sinclair Group, currently the largest US local TV operator, failed over regulatory hurdles.

Full details were expected to be confirmed on Monday, but the deal was widely reported in the US on Sunday.

Tribune’s 42 TV stations reach approximately 50 million households.

The Chicago-based company also owns national entertainment cable network WGN America, whose reach is more than 77 million households, and a number of websites. It also has a stake in the Food Network.

Nexstar, based in Irving, Texas, owns, operates and provides sales and other services to 174 television stations reaching nearly 39% of all US television households.

Reuters, which first disclosed the deal, said that US private equity Apollo Global Management had also been in talks with Tribune.

Tribune emerged from bankruptcy in late 2012 and completed a spinoff of its newspaper assets in 2014.

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The company’s sale to Sinclair fell foul of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over promises to divest television stations. The regulator said Sinclair did not “fully disclose facts” over the sale.

But that prompted an intervention from President Donald Trump, who tweeted in July: “So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune. This would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People.”

The news broadcasts of many Sinclair’s TV stations are viewed as politically conservative.

More TV broadcasting deals are excepted. Privately held Cox Enterprises announced in July that it was exploring strategic options, including a potential sale of broadcast TV stations it owns in cities such as Atlanta, Boston and Memphis.

It is also thought that Sinclair is pursuing other deals, having partnered with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners to bid for the regional sports networks that 21st Century Fox is selling following its deal to merge most of its assets with Walt Disney.