Standard General is the second-largest TV group in the United States — or will be if the FCC approves its takeover of Tegna, the third-largest group last year.
The big M&A news of the past year was Standard General’s agreement to take Tegna private in a $5.4 billion shareholder buyout.
This approval is not guaranteed, but in accordance with the long-standing practice of BIA Advisory Service, TVNewsCheck’s The annual ranking of the top 30 station group earners assumes that all pending mergers and acquisitions will get the FCC’s blessing and closure. Most offers do.
Nexstar, with nearly $4 billion in total revenue, remains the clear leader of the pack. The top 10 is completed by Sinclair, Fox, CBS, Comcast/NBC, ABC, Scripps and Hearst.
The ranking is based on 2021 data from BIA Advisory Services, a research and investment firm based in Chantilly, Virginia. It provides the coverage percentage (of total TV households) as well as the revenue estimates on which the ranking is based.
Standard General is controlled by investor Soo Kim and managed by broadcast veteran Deborah McDermott. They had teamed up earlier to form groups Young, LIN and Media General before selling to Nexstar.
Tegna’s standard general impersonation and Gray Television’s subsequent slide to third place are the only significant changes in this year’s rankings.
BIA maintains Cunningham Broadcasting and stations owned by Stephen Mumblow as separate groups. But because they essentially operate as subsidiaries — duopoly partners — of Sinclair, TVNewsCheck combines its revenues with those of Sinclair. The same goes for Nexstar; its total includes revenue from Mission Broadcasting.
For the entire Top 30, 2021 revenues topped $26.9 billion, including $14.4 billion in ad revenue and $12.5 billion in broadcasts.
Those numbers are down from 2020, when the Top 30 topped $28 billion — $16.8 billion from advertising and $11.4 billion from rebroadcasting. The decline on the advertising side is due, in part, to the comparison with the very high political ad revenue generated in 2020.
BIA tracks ownership of station groups and uses information from individual stations and markets – in addition to historical data – to generate its advertising revenue estimates.
Its retransmission consent estimates are not derived from stations, as stations typically promise MVPDs not to disclose amounts. BIA arrives at its estimates by modeling publicly traded companies and verifies all of its estimates against publicly available information.
So while the revenue estimates are not exact, they are close enough for ranking purposes.
The graph lists overall station coverage in two ways. Actual or total coverage is the percentage of the 122.4 million TV households that the group actually reaches and the relevant percentage for all practical business purposes.
FCC coverage is for regulatory purposes. The FCC limits coverage to 39% of those 122.4 million homes, but cuts UHF station coverage in half. This allows groups to extend their reach to 72% of households.
The shed is a holdover from a time when UHF stations were inferior to VHF stations.
The Democrats who currently lead the FCC are generally opposed to station consolidation, and so are unlikely to approve deals that offer to exceed 39% coverage without the discount.
Nexstar leads in actual reach with nearly 68%. This percentage includes WPIX New York, which is part of its companion group Mission.
Mark Fratrik, Executive Vice President and Chief Economist of BIA Advisory Services, is retiring at the end of the month. Last Friday, TVNewsCheck presented him on his talking television video podcast in which he shared some thoughts on the more tectonic forces shaping the industry in an increasingly fragmented landscape.
Among the issues affecting station mergers and acquisitions he has weighed in on is rebroadcasting, the main source of revenue besides advertising. This “gravy train,” he said, “slows down, obviously with the cord cut and the cord never. There are a lot of people – a lot of young people – who won’t subscribe to an MVPD.
“On the other hand, they can subscribe to a virtual MVPD or Hulu Live, YouTube Live, where they have access to local TV channels. And those services provide retransmission consent payments to local TV stations, all like cable companies [and] satellite operators.
“But while that slows down, fortunately, the local televisions negotiated contracts with tariff increases. So even if they lose subscribers, they can still increase their retransmission revenue because the rates keep going up. [But] it will also slow down. The golden age of really big raises, I think, is long gone.
When asked if stations would be able to create successful streaming-based business models or if streaming would have a negative disruptive effect on their core linear television business, he replied: “I think it’s incredibly disruptive, but I think a lot of local TV stations are successfully responding to this disruption by getting involved, playing the game, much like they did five or six years ago with other digital ad revenue, their websites and mobile apps, etc. .”
And when asked if he thinks stations and bands will ever see digital revenue grow to become a meaningful percentage of their overall revenue, he said, “The question is how do you define that digital revenue. If you include the [streaming] income directly, so I think yes, it will be important. And even [if it is] 10% or 15% is still a significant number of dollars. And some bands do even more than that. So I think yes, they will.
TVNewsCheckTop 30 TV Channel Groups
Data reproduced with the kind permission of BIA Advisory Services
|Band||Markets||Actual coverage||FCC coverage||2021 Retrans Rev.||2021 Announcement Rev.||Rev. total|
|1.||Nextstar||115||68%||39%||$2.07 billion||$1.90 billion||$3.97 billion|
|2.||General Standard||51||37%||29%||$1.38 billion||$1.32 billion||$2.70 billion|
|3.||Grey||124||34%||23%||$1.07 billion||$1.50 billion||$2.57 billion|
|4.||Sinclair||85||37%||23%||$1.59 billion||$930 million||$2.52 billion|
|5.||Fox||18||39%||26%||$1.20 billion||$1.29 billion||$2.49 billion|
|6.||SCS||18||38%||25%||$980 million||$1.29 billion||$2.27 billion|
|seven.||NBCUs||31||38%||20%||$860 million||$1.20 billion||$2.06 billion|
|8.||ABC|Disney||8||22%||20%||$610 million||$870 million||$1.48 billion|
|9.||Scripps||73||65%||35%||$480 million||$870 million||$1.35 billion|
|ten.||Hearst||26||18%||13%||$500 million||$700 million||$1.20 billion|
|11.||university||25||45%||24%||$670 million||$490 million||$1.16 billion|
|12.||coxswain||17||9%||4%||$330 million||$550 million||$880 million|
|13.||Graham||6||seven%||4%||$170 million||$300 million||$470 million|
|14.||Allen||21||5%||3%||$120 million||$160 million||$280 million|
|15.||ray of sunshine||seven||4%||2%||$50 million||$140 million||$190 million|
|16.||Hubbard||18||3%||2%||$80 million||$100 million||$180 million|
|17.||INSP||26||2%||2%||$60 million||$80 million||$140 million|
|18.||Weigel||24||27%||17%||$20 million||$110 million||$130 million|
|19.||Entrapment||2||14%||8%||$30 million||$90 million||$120 million|
|20.||Capitol||1||1%||0%||$50 million||$60 million||$110 million|
|20.||yuck. HAS.||11||1%||1%||$40 million||$70 million||$110 million|
|20.||NPG||9||2%||1%||$40 million||$70 million||$110 million|
|23.||Griffin||8||1%||1%||$30 million||$60 million||$90 million|
|24.||Morgan Murphy||5||1%||1%||$30 million||$50 million||$80 million|
|24.||Bahakel||4||2%||1%||$30 million||$50 million||$80 million|
|26.||To block||8||1%||0%||$20 million||$50 million||$70 million|
|26.||Lockwood||6||2%||2%||$40 million||$30 million||$70 million|
|28.||Morris||6||1%||1%||$30 million||$30 million||$60 million|
|28.||Liberman||8||0%||0%||$0||$60 million||$60 million|
|30.||estrella||6||ten%||8%||$0||$50 million||$50 million|