Local TV Stations Snapped Up In Buying Sprees

Chicago-based Tribune Company, newly out of bankruptcy, is trying to sell its newspaper holdings. The company is making a major play in local TV. The Sinclair Broadcasting Group owns and runs more stations but it too went on a TV buying spree this year. So have the Gannett Company and Media General.

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The Chicago-based Tribune Company, newly out of bankruptcy, is trying to sell off its newspaper holdings. Yet even as the company withdraws from print media, it's making a big push into local television, following the lead of other major media players.

NPR's David Folkenflik reports

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Here's an insight: In the first quarter of the year, Tribune's broadcasting operations accounted for just a third of its revenues, but more than half its profits. Now the company has paid a bit more than $2.7 billion in cash for 19 TV stations in 16 markets. It bought them from Local TV LLC, a media company based in suburban Cincinnati.

PETER LIGURI: Broadcast television is simply not going away.

FOLKENFLIK: Peter Liguri is president and CEO of the Tribune Company

LIGURI: Local broadcast news delivers audiences which absolutely dwarf CNN, HLN, ESPN Sports Center, the Weather Channel and Fox News combined. It is a service that people want.

FOLKENFLIK: By household reach, Tribune will become the biggest local TV station owner in the country. The Sinclair Group owns and runs more stations. It, too, went on a local TV buying spree this year. So have the Gannett Company and Media General.

Media analyst Ken Doctor says the remaining owners will spread costs out more widely. And, he says, the TV business differs from newspapers in a key way.

KEN DOCTOR: It's not going down the tubes. There's a huge amount of money. And let's remember that TV is still the biggest magnet for advertising dollars in the country. It's still number one. The Internet is number two. Print is number three.

FOLKENFLIK: Consumer advocates have raised concerns about consolidation of the local TV business. The Tribune deal is subject to regulatory review by the Federal Communications Commission.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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