Atlanta’s Gray TV to buy 17 stations for $2.7B

Atlanta-based Gray Television has agreed to purchase Meredith’s 17 television stations, including Atlanta’s CBS46 (WGCL-TV) and Peachtree TV (WPCH-TV), for an estimated $2.7 billion including debt. The acquisition would make Gray one of the largest TV station owners in the country, with 101 stations in 113 markets reaching about 36% of U.S. households. The deal, announced Monday, still requires regulatory approval.

What’s happening

The deal marks the first time Gray has owned TV stations in its hometown of Atlanta. Its other media holdings in Georgia include WTOC 11 in Savannah; WRDW-TV in Augusta; WTVM 9 in Columbus; and WALB News10 in Albany.

The local TV station ownership world has been consolidating in recent years with Gray becoming an active buyer. Its first big move came in 2019 when it purchased Raycom, transforming the company from a small, regional media player to a national one.

In February, Gray also purchased Quincy Media, which operates primarily in the Midwest, for $925 million in cash.

Gray says it owns or operates the top-rated television station in 69 markets. Other large independent TV station players include Nexstar Media, E.W. Scripps Co. and Sinclair Broadcast Group. Its revenue in 2020 was about $2.4 billion.

Des Moines, Iowa-based Meredith’s markets also include Phoenix, St. Louis, Nashville and Portland, Oregon.

What it means

“It’s a rapidly consolidating space,” said Michael Depp, editor of TVNewsCheck, which tracks the local TV market. “This puts them in 9 of the top 40 TV markets. This is an arms race for size. It’s really significant.”

Gray has beefed up its in-house production capabilities with investment in Atlanta-based Swirl Films and its own Tupelo Honey banner. It is also recently announced it is buying a major portion of the former GM plant in Doraville with ambitious plans to build a large film and TV production studio. It said it expects to create at least 10 film stages with a focus on e-gaming, digital media and robotics and wants to dub the 128 acres “Studio City.” It also wants to use some of the space for apartments, townhomes, a hotel, corporate offices, restaurants and retail space.

The company will not purchase Meredith’s digital or magazine assets. Meredith will hold onto its National Media Group operating division, which includes a large portfolio of magazines including People, Better Homes & Gardens and Entertainment Weekly.

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Here is the list of Meredith TV stations Gray plans to own, with affiliates and Nielsen-designated market size in parentheses:

  • WGCL (CBS) / WPCH (Independent), Atlanta (7)
  • KPHO (CBS) / KTVK (Independent), Phoenix (11)
  • KPTV (FOX) / KPDX (MyNetwork), Portland, Oregon (21)
  • KMOV (CBS), St. Louis (23)
  • WSMV (NBC), Nashville (29)
  • WFSB (CBS), Hartford-New Haven, Connecticut (32)
  • KCTV (CBS) / KSMO (MyNetwork), Kansas City, Missouri, (34)
  • WHNS (FOX), Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina (35)
  • KVVU (FOX), Las Vegas, Nevada (40)
  • WALA (FOX), Mobile, Alabama (57)
  • WNEM (CBS), Flint-Saginaw, Michigan (73)
  • WGGB (ABC & FOX) / WSHM-LD (CBS), Springfield, Massachusetts (116)