Cross-Ownership Repeal’s Implications

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If and when the Federal Communications Commission decides to deep-six its newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban, the merger and acquisition action should be fast and furious.

“Newspapers are absolutely going to be seeking acquisitions,” said Owen Van Essen, president of the newspaper broker Dirks, Van Essen & Murray.

This week, E&P offers some scenarios for the post-cross-ownership-ban media landscape, based on extensive interviews by editors Mark Fitzgerald and Lucia Moses. From the full story, available in the Feb. 18 print edition, here’s a sampling of possible scenarios:

* Gannett Co. Inc., looking to create cross-ownership combos in its existing markets, bids for Granite Broadcasting Corp.’s WB affiliate in Detroit. Or, Gannett decides to go all out and buy Pulitzer Inc., which overlaps with Gannett properties in Tucson and Flagstaff, Ariz., as well as St. Louis.

* Media General sells its 20% stake in The Denver Post or its outlying TV stations in the Midwest to raise cash to add more cross-ownerships in the Southeast.

* The E.W. Scripps Co. buys or swaps for more media properties in Memphis or Knoxville, Tenn., two of its mid-sized newspaper markets, or sells its ABC stations in Phoenix and Baltimore to, respectively, Gannett and the Tribune Co., which already own TV and/or print in those markets.

* Tribune, looking for TV stations to buy with the $180 million it got from the sale of three Denver radio stations, acquires a station in Orlando, Fla., where the Orlando Sentinel is a cable partner with AOL Time Warner Inc., or Baltimore, where The Sun has an extensive news partnership with Scripps’ ABC affiliate, WMAR-TV.

* Hearst Corp.: The Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Antonio Express-News are likely to be looking for local opportunities.

Based on interviews by Fitzgerald and Moses, E&P predicts that several companies will be largely inactive in any post-repeal deals, including Knight Ridder, the Washington Post Co., Lee Enterprises Inc., the McClatchy Co., and Pulitzer Inc.

Excerpts of this week’s exclusive print package are available at Let’s Make a Cross-Ownership Deal! and Cross Ownership By Company.

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