Nexstar Remains Firmly Atop Station Groups

It comes out No. 1 on TVNewsCheck-BIA Advisory Services’ annual list of the Top 30 groups ranked by total revenue for the second year in a row. It was a pretty calm 12 months, with little M&A and the top five slots returning unchanged.

By Mark K. Miller & Harry A. Jessell

While the past 12 months have been pretty momentous in most cases, in the case of ranking publicly traded TV station groups by total revenue, it’s been pretty much the same old, same old.

The top five spots remain the same from the list TVNewsCheck posted on May 29, 2019: Nexstar, Sinclair, Tegna, Fox and CBS, but this time around, Gray has inched up past NBCU for the sixth spot.

And looking further down the list, only seven of the top 20 changed, and each by only one position, up or down.

The ranking is based on ad revenue plus retrans revenue — total station revenue. The figures are estimates provided through an exclusive arrangement with BIA Advisory Services, an investment and research firm based in Chantilly, Va.

The Top 30 doesn’t include all commercial broadcasters, but it includes most that matter. The 30 account for 93% of all advertising revenue and 96% of retrans revenue.

Although the estimates are for 2019, the station groups are credited for revenue from all stations they own or operate plus any they have announced they are acquiring as of today (June 10), even if the deals have not yet closed.

For the entire Top 30, total revenue topped $25.6 billion, comprising $15.6 billion in ad revenue plus $10 billion in retransmission consent revenue.

BIA tracks station group ownership and uses information from individual stations and markets, in addition to historical data, to generate its ad revenue estimates. Its retransmission consent estimates are not derived from stations, as they are generally not allowed to disclose these amounts. It arrives at those estimates by modeling publicly traded companies and checks all its estimates against whatever public information is available.

So, although the revenue estimates are not exact, they are close enough for ranking purposes.

The groups’ coverage figures and numbers of stations/markets were also provided by BIA.

Missing from this year’s chart is Dispatch, which was absorbed by Tegna, and Morris Media, which just didn’t make the revenue cut.

Newcomers to the list include:

  • Byron Allen’s Allen Media, at No. 22. Allen got into station ownership through a couple of deals, the largest, announced last October, was for Bob Prather’s USA Television’s 11 stations in nine markets for $305 million. At the same time, Prather agreed to continue to manage the group.
  • Lockwood Broadcasting at 25.
  • Estrella Media at 30, which isn’t a new group, but a new name for what used to be known as Lieberman Broadcasting.

Allen also was one of three companies that made bids for Tegna (his was for $8.5 billion in cash) that were all rejected.

Mark Fratrik, BIA SVP and chief economist, said two things that struck him in looking over this year’s list are that “we have a lot of strong groups” and so many are “diversified across different markets. So that is an encouraging thing because I do believe regional diversification is the strength of the industry.”

When asked what the coming year may hold for these companies, he said that he still believes over-the-air political advertising will hit $3 billion as do estimates by others. “The reason is because we had a big infusion of political advertising in January and February with Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Steyer. So even though the other candidates didn’t spend a lot in the early [months] on over-the-air advertising, those two candidates really helped a lot for local television stations,” he added.

Also, Fratrik said that the top groups “are well positioned to withstand the impact of the [current economic] downturn.”

Note: BIA lists Cunningham Broadcasting and stations owned by Stephen Mumblow as distinct groups. But because they function essentially as subsidiaries — duopoly partners — of Sinclair, TVNewsCheck lumps their revenues together with Sinclair’s. The same holds true for Nexstar, which includes the revenue of Mission Broadcasting.

In the chart below, there are two columns for station coverage. The first, Total Coverage, gives full weight to the households in the market. The second, FCC Coverage, discounts 50% for UHF stations, as the FCC does.

TVNewsCheck’s Top 30 TV Station Groups

Data courtesy of BIA Advisory Services

Group Full-Power TVs Mkts Total Coverage FCC Coverage Retrans Fees Ad Rev Total Rev
1. Nexstar 196 114 62% 39% $1.37B $2.0B $3.33B
2. Sinclair 191 89 39% 25% $1.34B $1.2B $2.56B
3. Tegna 73 52 39% 32% $1.00B $1.4B $2.43B
4. Fox 29 18 39% 26% $956M $1.4B $2.36B
5. CBS 29 18 38% 26% $794M $1.4B $2.17B
6. Gray 129 95 24% 17% $799M $1.2B $2.04B
7. NBCU 51 30 38% 21% $748M $1.3B $2.01B
8. ABC|Disney 8 8 22% 21% $497M $902M $1.40B
9. Scripps 70 42 31% 22% $382M $916M $1.30B
10. Univision 65 25 45% 24% $433M $712M $1.14B
11. Hearst 37 26 19% 13% $416M $722M $1.13B
12. Cox 14 10 11% 6% $324M $490M $814M
13. Meredith 23 12 11% 7% $259M $423M $682M
14. Graham 7 6 7% 4% $140M $291M $431M
15. Quincy 24 16 3% 2% $62M $131M $193M
16. Sunbeam 3 2 4% 3% $40M $145M $185M
17. Entravision 59 24 14% 8% $79M $94M $173M
18. Hubbard 15 7 3% 2% $64M $103M $167M
19. Ion 71 62 69% 36% $0 $136M $136M
20. NPG 36 12 2% 1% $51M $71M $122M
21. Weigel 19 10 16% 8% $23M $97M $120M
22. Allen Media 16 11 0.4% 0.2% $48M $69M $117M
23. Capitol 4 2 1% 0.5% $45M $66M $111M
24. Berkshire Hathaway 1 1 2% 2% $33M $72M $105M
25. Lockwood 15 8 2% 2% $30M $53M $83.1M
26. Morgan Murphy 17 7 1% 1% $20M $61M $82.8M
27. Griffin 5 2 1% 1% $26M $54M $80M
28. Bahakel 6 5 2% 1% $27M $48M $75M
29. Block 8 4 1% 1% $22M $50M $72M
30. Liberman 13 9 12% 9% $0 $59M $59M


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