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Private equity is coming for local TV

Illustration: SOPA Images /Contributor, Getty Images

One of the world’s largest private equity firms is moving in on the local media landscape, placing billion-dollar bets on some of the biggest local TV franchises in the U.S.

Why it matters: Apollo Global Management's local media spree could one day give the firm significant local TV power. Bloomberg reports that if Apollo's next big deal with Nexstar media pans out, it would reach almost a quarter of U.S. households with its TV stations, based on Bloomberg Intelligence estimates.

Driving the news: Apollo announced last week that it will purchase a majority stake in 14 of Cox Media Group’s television stations and its integrated media operations in Ohio. Cox will keep a minority ownership. The deal is reportedly worth roughly $3 billion.

  • Cox says it plans to explore additional partnership opportunities with Apollo, potentially suggesting that it plans to offload more assets to the firm. (Cox also owns dozens of radio stations, four local newspapers and dozens of niche digital and local media brands.)
  • In a note to staff, Cox Media Group President Kim Guthrie says Cox expects the that the regulatory review process will take roughly six months. 
  • For now, Apollo will most exert board-level control, leaving Cox employees to still run day-to-day operations of the stations.

The big picture: An employee Q&A document obtained by Axios related to its recent takeover of Cox says that Apollo is planning "to build a larger media company," starting with Cox Media, that will be headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, where Cox is currently headquartered.

  • The document says that Apollo intends to use the Cox TV platform as "the cornerstone of this new venture."
  • "Apollo’s thesis regarding our TV stations relates primarily to the benefits of achieving scale in broadcast television (a vision we share), as opposed to cost-cutting or operational changes."

Apollo is reportedly working on more deals to acquire other groups of local television stations.

  • It's in talks to buy a group of local television stations from Nexstar Media Group Inc. for more than $1 billion, sources tell Bloomberg. Nexstar said in December that it would buy local broadcasting group Tribune Media for $4.1 billion in cash, after Tribune's deal with Sinclair Media fell through.
  • Multiple outlets, including CNBC, Bloomberg and Reuters have report that Apollo also had a deal to buy roughly a dozen stations last year from Northwest Broadcasting Inc., originally as part of its bid for Tribune Media.

The bottom line: The assets from these deals could reportedly give Apollo the scale it needs to give Cox minority ownership of its new broadcast behemoth.

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