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July 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Fresh out of bankruptcy, Tribune Co. announced today (Monday) that it has paid $2.7 billion in cash for 19 TV stations owned by Local TV, which in turn is owned by private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners, which in turn is now one of the key owners of Tribune. In a statement, the company emphasized that the deal with give it greater leverage to negotiate with cable-TV operators over retransmission fees. As Tribune put it in a statement: “The acquisition will lead to more meaningful conversations with affiliates about distribution, which is especially important to the future of WGN America.” WGN America was one of the first two “super stations” to be distributed by cable across the country in the late 60s. The other was WTBS, which eventually became cable channel TBS, one of the most successful cable networks. Last December the Chicago Tribune pointed out that Tribune Broadcasting chief Peter Liguori views WGN America as a “sleeping giant” on Tribune’s books, and noted that TBS now has five times the audience and seven times the cash flow of WGN America and is worth more than twice that of the entire Tribune Co. (before the latest acquisition). With Tribune’s muscle strengthened by the additional stations — it will now own 42 stations, including 14 in the top 20 markets, making it the largest owner of TV stations in the country — it will be in a position to demand increased retransmission fees for its stations in general and WGN America in particular. The deal is subject to FCC approval.