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Mar. 21 - WSAV’s parent Media General to buy WJCL and WTGS’s parent LIN Media

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

March 21. 2014 – UPDATED, 12:00 p.m. -  Media General, owner of WSAV-TV in Savannah announced today that it is buying LIN Media, owner of WJCL-TV and WTGS-TV in Savannah, and will merge operations where possible.

The announced offer price is $1.6 billion.

The combined company will include 74 network-affiliated owned or serviced TV stations across 46 markets and will reach 26.5 million, or approximately 23%, of U.S. TV households.

The announcement includes the news that there will be “certain regulatory divestitures,” meaning that the FCC may required some stations to be sold off to insure competition in certain markets in order to approve the deal, but no specifics were announced.

There were no announcements about the impact on the local operations and employees of the three stations involved in the Savannah area.

WSAV has been in the second ratings position in Savannah for many years, with WJCL in a distant third, followed by WTGS.  However, in certain counties such as Beaufort, where WSAV has invested heavily in Lowcountry news coverage with the launch of MyLC, WSAV is tied or ahead of WTOC in ratings books.

Their competitor, WTOC, which is owned by Raycom, moved into the number one position with the Nov 1980 ratings book, and has “remained really dominant from Nov 1980 until the present,” according to station Vice President/General Manager Bill Cathcart.  He joined WTOC in 1985.

Ratings position in a market is key to advertising rates that can be charged per spot, and total revenue potential

LIN Media shareholders will receive $763 million in cash and 49.5 million shares in Media General. Media General will take over LIN Media’s net debt balance of $2.6 billion.

LIN has invested heavily in a number of its markets, including in Savannah, where the company hired 30 new employees in the past 18 months, built brand new studios, and leased new station offices on the 3rd floor of the Savannah Morning News operations building on Chatham Parkway. 

LIN Media shareholders will own approximately 36% of the combined company and existing Media General shareholders will retain approximately 64% ownership on a fully diluted basis.

Upon closing of the transaction, Vincent L. Sadusky, LIN Media’s President and Chief Executive Officer, will become President and Chief Executive Officer of the new company, to be named Media General.

The transaction will generate significant free cash, the two companies stated.

With approximately $150 million of pro forma digital revenues, the combined digital media business will be the largest and most diversified in the TV broadcasting sector.

In 2011, Media General filed for bankruptcy protection, and then  sold off all its newspapers to Warren Buffet in May 2012,  becoming a pure TV and digital company.  In 2013, the company acquired the TV stations of Young Broadcasting.

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