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Fox, Blackstone to bid for acquiring Tribune Media

MUMBAI: Rupert Murdoch is looking to acquire Tribune Media, the company which owns a slew of US television stations.

Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is in talks with private equity firm Blackstone to team up for a joint bid to acquire Tribune Media, which has a market capitalisation of $3.2 billion.

The two would set up a joint venture to acquire Tribune Media. While Blackstone would fund the JV, Fox would provide its own portfolio of stations.

Fox and Blackstone hope to trump a rival offer from Sinclair Broadcasting, the largest owner of US television stations, and plan to form a joint venture for the deal, the Financial Times reported.

Tribune Media has assets such as WGN America and Tribune Broadcasting, which runs 42 local TV stations.

With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set to loosening ownership restrictions, a new wave of broadcast TV station mergers is expected in the US. The FCC recently reinstated the ‘UHF discount’. This means that station owners will not have to include channels broadcast over UHF waves in calculating how many markets they reach. With companies not allowed to broadcast to more than 40% of the US, reinstating the discount effectively means a barrier to owning more stations has been lifted, FT reported.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has already expressed interest in buying Tribune. Fox wants to counter Sinclair’s bid. The acquisition of Tribune by Sinclair would mean that it would control over 28% of Fox affiliates. Sinclair would thus gain leverage in carriage negotiations with Fox.

Combining its station portfolio with Tribune would give Fox more ways to exploit sports rights — particularly the US National Football League, FT reported.