Newport Television LLC, which has been operating Jacksonville television stations WAWS TV-30 and WTEV TV-47 for four years, announced an agreement Thursday to sell the stations to Cox Media Group.
Newport was formed by private equity firm Providence Equity Partners in 2008 after Providence bought a group of 29 television stations from Clear Channel Communications Inc.
The sale of the Jacksonville stations is part of a plan by Providence and Newport to sell off all of those stations. Newport announced agreements to sell 24 of them Thursday.
Technically, Newport only owns one of the two Jacksonville stations. WTEV actually is owned by High Plains Broadcasting, but Newport operates the station along with WAWS under a local marketing agreement.
Newport was forced to sell off one of the two Jacksonville stations by the Federal Communications Commission as a condition to the agency’s approval of Providence Equity’s buyout of the 29 stations in 2008.
Fox affiliate WAWS and CBS affiliate WTEV were both among the top four-rated stations in the Jacksonville market, and FCC rules prohibit one entity from owning two top-four stations.
It does allow Newport to operate a second station under the local marketing agreement.
Clear Channel had been allowed to own the two stations under a grandfather clause, but the FCC would not allow a new buyer to continue owning both.
Cox Media spokesman Andy McDill said Thursday he is not sure how the new deal is structured. Atlanta-based Cox may only be actually buying WAWS outright from Newport and also buying the marketing rights to operate WTEV.
Atlanta-based Cox Media owns a broad range of media properties, including 15 TV stations and eight daily newspapers.
It also owns 86 radio stations, including five in Jacksonville: WOKV (690 AM and 106.5 FM), WJGL (96.9 FM), WAPE (95.1 FM), WFYV (104.5 FM) and WXXJ (102.9 FM).
McDill said the company expects the television and radio stations to work together in some areas once the deal is complete, as Cox does in other cities where it owns both radio and television stations.
“It works very well in those markets,” he said.
Ironically, the WTEV and WAWS studios are located in the same building as Cox competitor Clear Channel’s six Jacksonville radio stations. Clear Channel consolidated all its operations into that building in the Eastpark business park on the Southside 15 years ago when it owned both the television and radio stations.
McDill did not know if Cox plans to move the television stations out of that building.
“There are a lot of fine details that are yet to be determined,” he said.
McDill said Cox is looking forward to reaching out to a new television audience that the company already serves on the radio side.
“We’re very excited to broaden our broadcasting reach, particularly in Jacksonville,” he said.
In addition to the Jacksonville stations, Cox also is buying two other television stations from Newport in Tulsa, Okla.
Besides the four stations going to Cox, Newport also announced agreements to sell 12 stations in other cities to Nexstar Broadcasting (which owns WCWJ TV-17 in Jacksonville) and six to Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair also is acquiring the rights to program two other stations currently operated by Newport.
Newport is still seeking buyers for its five other stations.
Newport said the total value of the sales announced Thursday is about $1 billion.
“These divestitures are the result of a thoughtful strategic review process conducted by the board to maximize value at Newport, and we believe these high-quality stations will have a bright future with their new owners,” Newport CEO Sandy DiPasquale said in a news release.