Fully $10.9 billion worth of TV stations have changed hands this year, according to SNL Kagan, involving 270 full-power and 265 low-power stations. The whole of 2012 saw $2 billion in deals, while 2011 totaled $527 million.
SNL Kagan cites cheap borrowing rates, clean balance sheets and the drive for retransmission cash as factors for the frenzy. "The recent pickup in broadcast M&A activity reflects the buyer's ability to charge higher retransmission fees for most, if not all, of its acquired stations immediately upon closing, and with little risk,” said Moody's senior analyst Carl Salas. "Both buyers and sellers stand to benefit, as buyers, armed with more favorable retransmission agreements, can offer sellers generous multiples for the chance to gain these arbitrage opportunities."
The blockbuster deals of 2013 include Gannett’s $2.2 billion grab of Belo and Tribune’s $2.73 billion acquisition of Local TV.
Various industry watchers see more activity happening in 2014, though not at the same torrid pace. Addressing investors in New York earlier this month, Perry Sook, Nexstar president and CEO, said some $1.5 billion in station properties are likely in play over the next two years.