Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Gannett seeks TV
duopoly in Florida

By Kim Chapman
Bloomberg News


NEW YORK -- Gannett Co., CBS Corp. and Granite Broadcasting Corp. and possibly other U.S. television station owners were expected to apply to the Federal Communications Commission for permission to own two TV stations in the same market.

TV station groups such as CBS, which has agreed to be bought by Viacom Inc. for about $40 billion, are eager to file requests for so-called "duopolies" -- or two TV stations in a single market -- to the FCC, which began accepting applications yesterday.

The FCC said for the first time on Aug. 5 that it would permit duopolies in certain markets, as long as at least eight independent TV station owners remain.

If too many companies apply for the same city, the FCC will choose a limited number of winners by lottery.

That means that applications submitted after yesterday could face a greater risk of being shut out of a market.

"Don't think everyone in free world is going to announce a deal," said Bishop Cheen, a media analyst at First Union Securities Inc. "I still think everyone is grappling with the (price) valuations."

At least two companies yesterday, Granite and Gannett, have announced agreements to buy TV stations in cities where they already own an outlet.

Granite said it agreed to buy WNGS-TV, a UPN affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y., from Unicorn Communications for $23 million, giving Granite two stations in that market, assuming the company gets FCC approval.

"There is only one duopoly slot in Buffalo, so whether we get it depends on whether there is more than one applicant," said Don Cornwell, Granite's chairman and chief executive.

Gannett, parent company of the Honolulu Advertiser, said yesterday that it agreed to buy WJXX, an ABC-affiliated station in Jacksonville, Fla. Gannett also said it plans to keep its WTLV-TV station, an NBC affiliate also in Jacksonville. The purchase will need FCC approval.

Meanwhile, Gannett also had expressed an interest in purchasing buy KRON-TV, the NBC affiliate in San Francisco. But Chronicle Publishing Co. is selling KRON, and a 51 percent stake in the cable channel Bay TV, for $823 million to station group owner Young Broadcasting Inc.

The deal formally announced yesterday consists of $650 million in cash and $173 million in Young Broadcasting stock.

The boards of both companies have approved the deal, which still is subject to FCC approval before it can be closed.

As far as the duopolies go, Tribune has said it will file for stakes in New Orleans and Seattle.

CBS, through its purchase by Viacom, potentially could end up with duopolies in six cities: Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Miami and Pittsburgh. CBS said it would file with the FCC yesterday for all six markets.

The big TV station groups, which include all the owners of major TV networks such as CBS, NBC, CBS and Fox, are seeking to own more stations to increase programming coverage and to sell more advertising.

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