Building a station group begins with one station, and Bob Prather,
former president and COO of Gray Television, has that first building
block in hand. Prather, fronting Heartland Media, agreed to acquire WKTV
Utica, in upstate New York, for $16 million. While the NBC affiliate is
a blockbuster in DMA No. 172, it's hardly a major deal in this era of
But Prather says he's just beginning. "I plan to buy
more. I've got a couple other offers out there," he said. "I've always
His targets are not dissimilar to Gray, the
group he helped build into a batch of 46 Big Four affiliated stations.
He likes the Big Four affiliations, and No. 1 or No. 2 stations in
economically sound midsize or smaller markets in any corner of the U.S.
He may consider the market before he considers the station. "I will try
to buy in markets I like when they are available," Prather says. "I'm a
big believer in striking when the iron is hot."
mentioned state capitals and/or university towns. As an example, he
cited Gray's acquisition of WNDU South Bend in 2006, Gray's principals
deciding South Bend was a growing market worth investing in. "Good,
stable markets," he said. "I'll be looking all over."
not divulge his partners in Heartland, but sources say they include a
former Gray colleague as well as a familiar name in the media investor
community. Prather is listed as managing member of Heartland Media in
Based in Atlanta, Prather departed Gray in June, with
Hilton Howell Jr. adding president to his existing CEO title. He says
he's energized by growing a startup.
"I'm an acquiring kind of guy," says the affable Prather. "I've always been a builder. I like building companies."