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Byron Allen could make offer to buy TEGNA stations

The broadcaster expressed interest in TEGNA based on its strong approach to community-driven journalism.

The broadcaster expressed interest in TEGNA based on its strong approach to community-driven journalism.

Comedian and media mogul Byron Allen. (Photo courtesy Byron Allen Media)

Three years ago, broadcaster Byron Allen made a commitment to spend up to $10 billion to acquire local ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox stations from coast to coast.

This week, Allen revealed some of that money could come TEGNA’s way.

During an interview with NPR media critic Eric Deggans, Allen reaffirmed his interest in making a bid for TEGNA’s five dozen local TV stations. His comments come just a few weeks after TEGNA called off its proposed merger with investment firm Standard General, which fell apart after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) delayed the approval process beyond a key financing deadline.

Allen may face less resistance acquiring TEGNA than Standard General: The broadcast arm of his company, Allen Media, owns less than three dozen full-power licensed TV stations across the country (accounting for repeaters, semi-satellites and low-power stations, the number is around four dozen). While ownership of those stations makes him a media mogul, the quantity pales in comparison with the numbers put up by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Nexstar Media Group and Gray Television.

Some of the concerns over TEGNA’s deal with Standard General wasn’t just focused on how many TV stations a hedge fund would operate (and its potential impact on local journalism), but where those stations operate: In big markets like Seattle, Atlanta, Sacramento and San Diego. By comparison, Allen Media primarily currently owns TV stations in mid- to small-size markets like Chico-Redding, Tucson, Madison and Honolulu.

“Tegna is a phenomenal company,” Allen said during his NPR interview, which aired over the weekend, noting TEGNA’s number of full-power ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates across the country and the company’s strong commitment to community-driven journalism.

“They do extremely well in local news, and local news is very important to me,” Allen affirmed. “This is an asset that we’re very interested in. We’re in that space. It is a phenomenal category for us to be in. We love and appreciate local news. It matters, and we are very focused on being number one in the news space.”

Allen stopped short of offering a clear commitment to acquiring TEGNA and didn’t reveal how much he would be willing to pay for the station group. (The proposal between TEGNA and Standard General was valued at $8.6 billion.) And his interest comes at a time when he is also exploring possible bids for other television assets, including Paramount Global’s BET Media, which has drawn a number of potential suitors.

Allen seemed unconcerned that he might not walk away with TEGNA or BET at the end of the day, but restated his pledge to pursue deals wherever they made sense.

“There’s no shortage of deals, but the deal has to be right, the deal has to make sense,” Allen said. “And what we strike on, we strike on what makes money and make sense. And just because we don’t get it today doesn’t mean we won’t own it tomorrow, but I will guarantee you we will always be the biggest and the best.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).