First, the jargon:
Sinclair Broadcast Group has set a $3.9 billion cash-and-stock agreement to acquire Tribune Media, a deal that will bring more than 200 TV stations under one roof and vault Sinclair into the big leagues of national TV.
“This is a transformational acquisition for Sinclair that will open up a myriad of opportunities for the company,” said Chris Ripley, president-CEO of Sinclair. “The Tribune stations are highly complementary to Sinclair’s existing footprint and will create a leading nationwide media platform that includes our country’s largest markets. The acquisition will enable Sinclair to build ATSC 3.0 (Next Generation Broadcast Platform) advanced services, scale emerging networks and national sales, and integrate content verticals. The acquisition will also create substantial synergistic value through operating efficiencies, revenue streams, programming strategies and digital platforms.”
This is where it gets interesting, at least in this market: Sinclair already owns KOKH-TV (Fox) and KOCB (The CW), while Tribune owns KFOR-TV (NBC) and KAUT-TV (independent). Up to now, the FCC has allowed no more than two stations per owner in a single market:
The rule allows an entity to own up to two TV stations in the same [Designated Market Area] if either (1) the service areas — known as “Grade B signal contours” — of the stations do not overlap; or (2) at least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (based on market share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination.
Condition 2 obtains here: KOCB doesn’t make it to the top four, as you might expect of an affiliate of the fifth-place network, and the Oklahoma City market has 13 full-power TV stations with 11 different owners. The third duopoly, should you want to know, is Griffin Communications’ KWTV-DT (CBS) and KSBI (MyNetworkTV).
Loosening of the FCC ownership rules is an ongoing process, headed by the FCC’s Ajit Pai, nomimated to the Commission by President Obama in 2012, and named Chairman by President Trump in 2017. However, I can’t see them loosening the rules enough to allow one entity to own four full-power stations in a single market; Sinclair, I’m thinking, will sell off one or two. And since KOKH and KOCB are pretty solidly integrated, I don’t expect Sinclair to break up the set; I mean, what would happen to the content verticals?