Sinclair Broadcast Group is acquiring Bonten Media’s 14 stations in eight markets for $240 million, the station group said Friday. The move comes as rumors continue to fly that Sinclair is on the verge of a much bigger merger with Tribune Media.
“We look forward to welcoming the Bonten employees into the Sinclair family and are pleased to be growing our regional presence in several states where we already operate,” said Chris Ripley, president-CEO of Sinclair, in a statement. “We believe our economies of scale help us bring improvements to small market stations, including investments in news, other quality local programming, and multicast opportunities with our emerging networks of Comet, Charge! and TBD.”
The deal was announced the day after the FCC voted to reinstate the so-called UHF discount, which counts stations that broadcast over UHF frequencies at half of a market’s coverage. Applying the UHF discount to Bonten’s coverage area adds only 1 percent to Sinclair’s total coverage, which is around 25 percent of the country when the discount is included. Without the discount, Sinclair would be over the national ownership cap of 39 percent and would have to divest stations.
Digital broadcasting renders whether a station operates on UHF or more powerful VHF frequency mostly irrelevant since stations operating on either frequency generally cover the same area in a digital scenario. That said, reinstating the discount allows the FCC to give broadcasters pushing against the national ownership cap, such as Sinclair, more ability to acquire stations.
Bonten Media was formed by Randy Bongarten, backed by the Diamond Castle private equity firm, in 2007 when it purchased Bluestone Television for $230 million, reports TVNewscheck.
In a note to clients, Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker said the deal amounts to a “drop in the bucket” for Sinclair. “It by no means precludes other deals from happening — large or small — as [Sinclair] clearly still has plenty of cap and financial room.
READ MORE: TVNewscheck, Broadcasting & Cable