David Smith, president and CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group,
is backing a new station group venture focused on smaller market stations,
according to four different sources. Steve Pruett, CEO of Communications Corp.
of America (CCA), will play a prominent role in building and running the
privately held group.
The principals in the new venture, which is as yet untitled,
seek to launch in the coming months with at least 20 stations. Smith called
talk of the new venture "rank speculation." He would not comment
further, citing his role in a publicly traded company. Pruett, who is the Fox
affiliates board chairman, could not be reached for comment. The Barrington
station group is on the block and is believed to have attracted the interest of
the new venture. Barrington's executives could not be reached for comment.
The CCA stations are also being shopped. CCA owns or
operates 25 stations, in Texas, Louisiana and Evansville, Ind., and their market
size and affiliate mix could make them a fit for the new group.
A quartet of Cox stations may also be on the startup
principals' wish list. A Cox executive would not comment.
The planned group would operate separately from Sinclair,
though the stations would conceivably share some of the efficiencies of the
group. Sinclair has added stations formerly owned by Four Points Media, Freedom
Broadcasting and Newport Television, among others, in the past 16 months to now
own or operate 87 stations in 47 markets -- reaching 27.1% of U.S. households.
Silver Point is the majority owner of CCA and recently tapped a banking firm to explore strategic
alternatives. The stations include KDBC El Paso and WGMB Baton Rouge.
Media mogul Bob Pittman's Pilot Group is behind Barrington
and is eager to cash out, according to multiple sources. Stations include WEYI
Flint, KXRM Colorado Springs and WNWO Toledo.
Cox put four stations on the block, including KFOX El Paso
and KRXI Reno, after it acquired four from Newport TV last year.