Gray TV Execs: Mergers Are the 'Essence' of Local TV Now

Speaking to investors, company details 'strong wish list' of future targets
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Gray TV execs shed light this morning on their $442.5 million acquisition of Schurz radio and TV stations, a sizable deal that came on the heels of last week's Media General-Meredith blockbuster.

"I think it's just the essence of our industry right now," said Gray president and CEO Hilton Howell Jr. "It is consolidating." Asked why Schurz decided to cash in, he added, "From a business standpoint, Schurz decided that they didn't have the ability with seven TV markets to compete as effectively as they needed to compete. They tried to find a good home and fortunately they chose us."

Deals are coming together quickly and volume is considerable, they added. "The pipeline (of total available deals) over the medium term is far more than we can afford and we are never able to predict when something is actionable," said Kevin Latek, senior VP of business affairs at Gray. "The third Monday of August if you'd asked me if we'd be buying KCRG (in Cedar Rapids, Iowa), I would have laughed. The next day, we had lunch with them and we talked and came up with something that made sense and closed 14 days later."

Prodded by analysts to detail more specific acquisition plans, Howell wouldn't offer much. But he made it clear that the appetite remains. 

"We have a strong wish list," he said. "There are many stations in many smaller station groups that are a perfect fit with us geographically and with our insistence on dominant station and news-centered stations. We still have a long way to go in that regard."

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