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Standard General's Soo Kim on further consolidation in local media

Jul 21, 2022
Photo illustration of Soo Kim with a stylized television test bar screen.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Courtesy of Standard General

As Standard General prepares to take local TV giant Tegna private, Axios caught up again with Soo Kim, the investment firm's managing partner and CIO.

Why it matters: Standard General is about to become one of the biggest players in local media. Few investors have more skin in the game than Kim.

  • The $5.4 billion deal, announced back in February, is expected to close in the coming months.

What he's saying: "Television viewership is shrinking, so I think scale is one response to that. And obviously, this [deal] is a very much a scaling transaction," Kim says, referring to Tegna.

  • "But I think there's more logic than just 'get bigger.' We believe that there's an opportunity to actually transform, to actually move the needle, and actually build upon the constituent parts of the business."

Between the lines: The local TV space is much smaller compared to some of the larger conglomerates that drive much of the media dealmaking. It's not enough to just buy as many stations as you can.

  • "We are small products in that universe. I think scaling helps, but the key thing we need to do is we need to transform our business and make our assets relevant for the next generation," Kim says. "People don't wait till 11pm to get their news."
  • He expects to see more consolidation that could further wipe out smaller station groups.

Yes, but: The FCC has longstanding rules on local media ownership that, among other things, govern how many stations one company is allowed to own.

  • Those rules have loosened somewhat in recent years amid a growing feeling that they're outdated in the internet age.
  • "The big Internet giants like Google and Facebook, they don't follow any rules. There's national wireless companies, national cable and satellite companies. They're not bound by some arbitrary audience," Kim says.
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