Ion Media Buys Three TV Stations, Bringing Total to 63

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The acquisitions come as a new wave of broadcast industry consolidation may follow Sinclair's recent deal for Tribune Media due to FCC rule changes.

In a sign of TV station consolidation gathering pace following recent regulatory changes, Ion Media on Tuesday said it has nabbed three new TV stations to now operate in 24 of the top 25 U.S. markets.

After the FCC, led by newly installed chairman Ajit Pai, eased national ownership restrictions to make it easier to acquire more stations, the West Palm Beach, Fla.-based TV station group has picked up WRBU-TV in St. Louis, Columbia, S.C.'s WZRB-TV and KTRV-TV in Boise, Idaho.

Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed. They are subject to FCC approval.

The recent station group combinations got started when Sinclair Broadcast Group unveiled a deal to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, adding 42 stations, including Fox affiliates, to its stable.

TV station groups have been seen as ripe for consolidation after the FCC reinstated what is known as the "UHF discount," which excludes channels carried over UHF waves from the calculation for how many markets a station group operates in. The latest acquisitions by Ion will expand its position as the largest U.S. holder of full power UHF broadcast TV spectrum, and get its station footprint to 63 stations in 58 of the largest U.S. markets.

“Growing our TV station portfolio will give U.S. households access to much-needed affordable independent entertainment, kids and lifestyle programming,” said Brandon Burgess, chairman and CEO of Ion Media, highlighting that the deal would add 5 million viewers to his network’s audience reach.

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