TV station operator Sinclair Broadcasting has agreed to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion in a move that would expand its conservative-leaning program service to the three largest U.S. markets.
The largest deal in Sinclair’s history would, according to Variety, “bring more than 200 TV stations under one roof and vault Sinclair into the big leagues of national TV.” Tribune own 42 stations in 33 markets — including the big three of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — as well as the cable network WGN America and other assets.
Sinclair said Monday it would pay $43.50 a share for Tribune, a more than 25% premium to the undisturbed share price, and assume $2.7 billion in debt.
“This is a transformational acquisition for Sinclair that will open up a myriad of opportunities for the company,” CEO Chris Ripley said in a news release. “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.”
As Recode reports, the deal is “the latest sign that media and telecom giants plan to take advantage of a relaxed regulatory environment” under President Donald Trump. Ajit Pai, the new GOP chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has already changed the way some stations are counted toward a company’s national footprint.
Sinclair already owns 139 TV stations and there has been speculation that, with the addition of Tribune’s portfolio, it could launch a competitor to Fox News.
“The company is known for injecting a conservative slant into the local news that airs on its TV stations, generating speculation that its expansion moves could lead to a national platform for a right-leaning program service,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Concerns over further consolidation in the media and telecom industries could spark opposition to the deal. “It’s a scandal,” Craig Aaron, the head of Free Press, an anti-consolidation nonprofit, told CNN. “Trump-favoring mega-chain gets rules changed — and expects others to be erased — so it can put its cookie-cutter newscasts in nearly 70 percent of local markets across the country.”