Young Broadcasting Inc. canceled a conference call set for 4:15 p.m. Tuesday
to discuss what insiders said was to be an announcement of the sale of its
KCAL-TV Los Angeles to Viacom Inc. for about $600 million.
The deal would give Viacom a duopoly in Los Angeles, as it already owns KCBS
But sources said there was no deal (as of 4:15 p.m.), and that is presumably
the reason why the call got canceled. Stay tuned.
KCAL currently offers a schedule with a great deal of news and sports,
including the National Basketball Association champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Insiders suggested that the station might eventually switch from independent
to the Viacom-owned United Paramount Network.
Current UPN affiliate KCOP was purchased last year by News Corp., owner of
the Fox network. That deal gave Fox its own duopoly in Los Angeles, with
Young purchased KCAL from The Walt Disney Co. in 1996 for $387 million,
according to BIA Financial. Disney had to sell when it purchased Capital
Cities/ABC Inc. because duopolies were prohibited at the time.
Only days ago, at his conference call on earnings, Young chairman Vincent
Young was touting KCAL as a potential duopoly partner, although most of the
attention during that conference was paid to Young's San Francisco independent,
former NBC affiliate KRON-TV, which, after dropping out of the top four stations
in the market, can now be a candidate for duopoly.
While analysts contacted Tuesday said the KCAL-Viacom deal made sense, given
the higher price tag Young has sought for KRON-TV, selling KRON-TV might be more
likely in a further deregulated environment with a raised ownership cap and
elimination of prohibitions on newspaper-television cross-ownership.
Young paid $737 million for the No. 5 DMA station before NBC transferred its
affiliation to KNTV, which it is in the process of purchasing.
A deal for NBC to buy KRON-TV did not materialize, sources said, because of
the wide gap between Young's price and NBC's bid.