Tribune Broadcasting, in a sign it is starting to plot its own course after a long-gestating merger with Sinclair Broadcast Group has hit the rocks, announced renewals of affiliation agreements with Fox for eight of its 42 stations.
The affiliation deals are also a harbinger of 21st Century Fox’s new strategy after final approval of Disney’s acquisition of most of the company. Local TV will become a bedrock of “New Fox,” whose programming will be mostly live sports and reality fare. Fox already owns a portfolio of local stations that is the most valuable in the industry in terms of total revenue.
The eight stations are KCPQ in Seattle, KDVR in Denver, WJW in Cleveland, KTVI in St. Louis, WDAF in Kansas City, KSTU in Salt Lake City, WITI in Milwaukee and WGHP in Greensboro, N.C. Terms of the renewals were not disclosed.
Fox and Sinclair have made deals for certain stations in recent months as Sinclair has sought to divest of some stations in order to win approval for its $3.9 billion Tribune deal. After the deal was announced in early 2017, most industry observers expected speedy regulatory approval even though the merger would have created a local media behemoth without precedent and with reach into more than 60% of U.S. households.
Regulators at the FCC shocked many by voting to refer the case to administrative law judge, a move tantamount to killing it. Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai raised “serious concerns” about the reach Sinclair would have, even though he has also worked to eliminate many of the rules limiting station ownership.