Clear Channel clearance sale
To stay in line with duopoly and crossownership rules, radio giant Clear Channel will probably have to sell TV stations in six markets to win government approval of its $800 million purchase of the Ackerley TV group. The markets are Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton and Utica, all New York; Eugene, Ore.; and Santa Maria/San Luis Obispo, Calif. The company is expected to ask the FCC for short-term waivers to allow orderly divestitures.—B.M.
Look for David Smith to prune, not liquidate, Sinclair Broadcasting's TV station portfolio. Usually, when companies make an announcement like "We have retained the investment banking firm of Bear Stearns to advise on the company's television station group portfolio"—as Sinclair did Friday—it's the equivalent of posting a "For Sale" sign out front. But industry executives say Smith is interested primarily in shrinking the number of markets in which Sinclair operates. Sinclair controls 62 television stations in 40 markets. "They buy or trade for stations where they can get duopolies and exit markets where they can't." Top of the exit list: Sacramento and Indianapolis.—J.H.
Bob Raleigh, president of Carsey-Werner-Mandabach's domestic syndication division, is looking to line up a concurrent cable window for 22 Minutes With Eleanor Riggs
(working title), the new sitcom with Seinfeld-ex Julia Louis-Dreyfus that NBC has ordered for midseason. No word on any potential takers, but TBS, which will run off-net episodes of Seinfeld
in fall 2002, could be a fit. Wherever it lands, it will be the first new network sitcom repurposed concurrently on a cable outlet à la dramas Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
and Once & Again. NBC has ordered 12 episodes of 22 Minutes.
Louis-Dreyfus will ap-pear in only 15 episodes per season, rather than the standard 22 episodes.—S.A.
Young: Shopping stations
Young Broadcasting Chairman Vincent Young has quipped from time to time that he'll listen to any caller who makes him an offer on all or part of the company. But sources say that, lately, it's Young doing the calling, serious about unloading KRON-TV San Francisco (which loses its NBC affiliation in January to KNTV) and possibly the entire 13-station group. Sources say Young pitched NBC on buying KRON-TV, with one saying NBC passed and another saying KRON "is not a serious consideration" for NBC at this time. Sources also say that Disney was pitched and ABC's parent is mulling an offer for the whole group. Its main interest would be KRON-TV and KCAL-TV Los Angeles, which would give ABC duopolies in the two markets. Young couldn't be reach for comment.—S.M.
TV stations facing trouble with their DTV rollouts could get a break under expected new FCC rules. Broadcasters have warned that, without a streamlined application process, regulators could be inundated by waiver requests from stations seeking to postpone their May 1 DTV launch. The new plan, presented to Chairman Michael Powell and the other commissioners last week and slated to be unveiled at their Nov. 8 meeting, would create a checklist application allowing delays for zoning problems, equipment-delivery delays and specific financial hardships. The commissioners, who can make changes to the plan over the next three weeks, also are expected to delay stations' 2004 "use it or lose it" deadline for maximizing DTV signal areas.—B.M.