Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sinclair Again Acquires KOKH

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sinclair Again Acquires KOKH

Article excerpt

Less than a month after completing its sale of KOKH-25, Sinclair Broadcast Group has bought it back -- and so must consider selling it again.

Tuesday's merger between Sinclair, owner of KOCB-34, and Sullivan Broadcast Holdings, the company that on Feb. 1 took over KOKH, will create yet another shake-up in Oklahoma City's turbulent TV market.

Sinclair will buy Boston-based Sullivan for as much as $1 billion in cash, stock and assumed debt, giving it television stations in the East and South. But the Federal Communications Commission forbids a single company to own more than one station in a particular market. Sinclair faced the exact same situation last year when it acquired Heritage Media, then the owner of KOKH. Sinclair resolved the dilemma by arranging to sell the station to Sullivan on the same day that it closed on its acquisition of Heritage. "Sinclair owned us until the ink was dry," explained Steve Herman, station manager of KOKH, which broadcasts the FOX network. Perhaps this time Sinclair will own Channel 25 for the few seconds it takes ink to dry once again. Or it could keep KOKH and sell KOCB- 34 instead. "It's up in the air again. There's no basis to predict the future," said Herman. "It seems like anything could happen. I'm sure in the coming days we'll get more details as to what's going to happen." Tuesday's news is only the latest in a wave of changes sweeping Oklahoma City's TV marketplace in recent months. KOCB-34 changed its affiliation from the UPN network to The WB network in January. Meanwhile, the OETA board approved the $23.5 million sale of KTLC- 43 to Paramount Stations Group in January, which will return UPN to the local market after that deal clears FCC regulatory hurdles. That decision could come in April or May. The addition of closely held Sullivan's 14 TV stations puts Sinclair in mostly mid-sized markets and expands its reach to 23 percent of U.S. homes from 19 percent. It expands Sinclair into fast- growing regions such as Charleston, S.C., and Richmond, Va. The company also may boost revenue in some markets where it already owns radio stations, such as Buffalo, N.Y., by packaging commercial time with Sullivan's TV stations. "The Sullivan stations fit like a glove for Sinclair," said Salomon Smith Barney analyst Paul Sweeney, who rates the Baltimore- based company a "buy." Sinclair shares, which are trading around 54, have more than doubled from about 25 the past 12 months. The purchase price includes as much as $100 million in stock and $480 million of assumed debt. Including pending transactions, Sinclair owns or provides programming to 55 TV stations in 37 markets and 59 radio stations in 11 markets. The purchase comes as Sinclair faces scrutiny from some lawmakers for how it plans to use the new digital licenses the government is handing out to broadcasters. …

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