Sinclair Broadcast Group said Monday it will pay $3.9 billion to buy Tribune Media Company and its 42 local TV stations, beating out 21st Century Fox to land the deal.
Sinclair already has 173 local news stations. The combined operations of the two companies will create the largest-single group of local TV stations.
The deal calls for Sinclair to acquire 100 percent of Tribune Media for $43.50 a share. Sinclair also will assume about $2.7 billion in Tribune Media debt, according to the companies.
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Tribune Media owns local TV stations across the country, including WGN in Chicago, WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles and WDCW in Washington.
Based in Hunt Valley, Md., north of Baltimore, Sinclair owns mostly stations in smaller markets, such as WUTV in Buffalo and WVTV in Milwaukee. One of its largest stations is WJLA in Washington.
Tribune Media said in a statement that it expects Federal Communications Commission’s rules on ownership and antitrust regulations may result in Sinclair in selling some stations.
Current FCC rules limit the national TV audience for any single owner at 39 percent and prohibit any owner running more than two stations in most markets.
But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai -- who was elevated to his post by President Trump earlier this year -- has indicated in speeches that he intends to loosen the TV ownership rules. Last month, Pai’s FCC reinstated a rule that helps station owners get around the national audience cap. The so-called UHF discount allows stations to count just 50 percent of its audience from UHF stations toward the audience cap. Last fall, the FCC, under President Obama, revoked the UHF cap. Now, with its return last month, stations have more room to stay under the cap.