Tribune Co. on Friday completed its acquisition of the independent Local TV Holdings group, transforming the Chicago company into one of the largest broadcasters in the nation with 39 television stations.
The move, announced by Tribune Chief Executive Peter Liguori, is an important first step in the company’s evolution from a company dependent on dwindling revenue from its newspapers and into a formidable broadcast group that reaches an estimated 50 million U.S. homes.
Tribune is the parent company of the Los Angeles Times.
Last week, Tribune received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to acquire 16 television stations owned by Local TV Holdings. The $2.7-billion deal was first announced in July.
Tribune separately plans to spin off its eight newspapers, including the Times and the Chicago Tribune, into a standalone company during the first half of 2014.
With the purchase of the new TV stations, which serve such markets as Denver; Salt Lake City; Kansas City, Mo.; and St. Louis, Tribune becomes the largest affiliate group of Fox Broadcasting, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
It also is the largest affiliate of the small CW television network, owned by CBS Corp. and Warner Bros.
Also this month, the FCC and Department of Justice separately approved a $2.2-billion purchase by Gannett Co. of 19 television stations previously owned by Belo Corp.
Media watchdogs criticized the FCC’s approval of the two large mergers, citing the risk of consolidating too much power into a handful of media conglomerates, which could stifle outside voices and lead to further journalism cuts.
Tribune also received permission from the FCC to help manage the operations of three of the former Local TV stations, including those in Scranton, Pa., and Norfolk, Va., which will be owned by a separate entity, Dreamcatcher Broadcasting.
“The increase in scale of Tribune broadcasting promises to enhance every aspect of our business including our relationships with programmers, advertisers, and cable and satellite partners,” Liguori said in an email Friday to Tribune employees.
“However, what most excites me is not the sheer size of our broadcasting operation, but the possibilities it affords us,” Liguori said. “As our industry continues to evolve, we will be in a position to work together to define the Tribune of the future.”