May 8 (UPI) -- Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. will acquire Tribune Media Co. for about $3.9 billion, Sinclair announced Monday.
The union of two of the largest owners of television stations in the United States is expected to be the first in an upcoming series of mergers of broadcasting companies, Bloomberg News reported Monday.
Sinclair, headquartered in Baltimore, won rights to Chicago-based Tribune Media in an auction, in which Fox Broadcasting Co. and Nexstar Media Group were expected to make offers.
The acquisition was facilitated by a Federal Communications Commission ruling in April in which owners of ultra high frequency stations were allowed to count the stations' coverage at a reduced rate to comply with a 39 percent nationwide coverage cap set by Congress. Despite the FCC ruling, the issue is moot. UHF stations, broadcasting on channels 14 and up, were once regarded as low-powered, but the difference ended with a mandated switch to all-digital broadcasting signals in 2009.
Although Sinclair and Tribune are major broadcasting companies, they have little overlap regarding markets. Sinclair has 183 stations in 81 markets; Tribune has 42 stations. With the acquisition, Sinclair will have ownership or control of television stations in 72 percent of U.S. markets, including in major markets such as New York, Chicago and Miami, as well as 28 percent of Fox Broadcasting's affiliates.
Sinclair will pay $43.50 per share to acquire Tribune. The announcement sent Tribune shares to $43.04 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.