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Sinclair Broadcast Group agrees to sell seven TV stations to Fox

Sinclair Broadcast Group agrees to sell seven TV stations to Fox
The Sinclair Broadcast Group headquarters in Hunt Valley, Md., is shown April 3. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Sinclair Broadcast Group — seeking government approval to acquire Tribune Media and its 42 television stations — has agreed to sell seven of those Tribune-owned stations to 21st Century Fox's TV ownership group, the companies announced Wednesday.

Fox agreed to pay $910 million for the stations, five of which are in markets with NFL teams. Fox recently expanded its rights deal with the NFL to carry Thursday night prime-time games.

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Fox is depending on live sports to be the centerpiece of its broadcast TV operations after it sells its entertainment production studios and cable networks. It has agreed to make that sale to Walt Disney Co. for $52.4 billion, although Comcast has been exploring a bid that would eclipse Disney's offer, according to two people close to the situation who were not authorized to comment.

The deal with Sinclair shows Fox is proceeding with its plans for the network and its station group.

"This transaction illustrates Fox's commitment to local broadcasting and we are pleased to add these stations to our existing portfolio," Jack Abernethy, chief executive of Fox Television Stations, said in a statement. "With this acquisition, we will now compete in 19 of the top 20 markets and have a significantly larger presence in the West, which will enhance our already strong platform."

Sinclair, based in Maryland, is awaiting government approval for its $3.9-billion deal to acquire Tribune Media. The purchase would allow Sinclair to own stations that reach more than 39% of U.S. households — putting it over the government's limit. So it has to arrange to sell some.

"This announcement should set the stage for [the Federal Communications Commission's] regulatory review to move forward," Tribune Media's interim chief executive, Peter Kern, said in a memo to his staff.

The stations in the deal are KSWB in San Diego, KTXL in Sacramento, KCPQ in Seattle, KDVR in Denver, KSTU in Salt Lake City, WJW in Cleveland and WSFL in Miami.

The deal also gives Sinclair the option to buy Fox-owned stations in Chicago and in Austin, Texas. Sinclair also has renewed its affiliate agreements to carry the Fox network on 34 of its stations.

Last month, Sinclair agreed to sell 23 stations to bring the Tribune deal in compliance with FCC ownership rules on TV stations.

Both proposed sales would occur after the close of Sinclair's acquisition of Tribune Media. The deal would give Sinclair ownership or operational control of 215 TV stations in 102 markets.

Sinclair is the largest owner of local television stations in the United States. It recently drew criticism for requiring the news anchors at its stations to read a scripted statement echoing claims by President Trump that TV news outlets offer "fake" or biased news.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

UPDATES:

12:50 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Fox Television Stations Chief Executive Jack Abernethy.

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This article was originally published at 7:15 a.m.

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