Sunday, December 17, 2017

Who will buy the Tampa Bay Times?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “The media ownership regulations of 2017 should match the media marketplace of 2017"

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.

In a major change of policy, the Federal Communications Commission recently relaxed its media ownership rules to allow broadcasters and cable companies to own local newspapers.

Until now, cross ownership of print and electronic media in the same market was prohibited by FCC regulations. You can get more detail from Variety, Ted Johnson: FCC Relaxes Media Ownership Rules in Contentious Vote

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, “The media ownership regulations of 2017 should match the media marketplace of 2017,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. He said the agency was “dragging the broadcast rules into the digital age.” Pai added that the changes are needed, given current consumer habits, as people get their news not just from local stations, but from websites, podcasts, and social media.”

From recent activities, it is widely known that the Tampa Bay Times has been in a financial quandary for some time. The Times has struggled with dwindling revenues from newspaper advertising and has not been able to develop and monetize a successful on-line presence.

Privately held in a complicated arrangement with the Poynter Institute, the Times most recent round or rescue financing has raised a number of questions about the newspaper’s independence.

The Tampa Bay Times needs a buyer, and these changes in the FCC ownership rules may have dealt the Times and the Poynter Institute a market with a lot of money and a serious interest in print/online properties.

Possible Candidates (Information from Wikipedia)

WFLA-TV, virtual channel 8 (VHF digital channel 7), is an NBC-affiliated television station licensed to TampaFlorida, United States and also serving the nearby city of St. Petersburg. The station is owned by Nexstar Media Group, as part of a duopoly with St. Petersburg-licensed MyNetworkTV affiliate WTTA.

2015 US revenues $896.4 million USD.

WTSP, virtual and VHF digital channel 10, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to St. Petersburg, Florida, United States and also serving TampaOwned by Tegna, Inc., WTSP maintains studio facilities located on Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg, and its transmitter is located in Riverview.

2016 Revenues US $3.3 billion.

WTVTvirtual channel 13 (VHF digital channel 12), is a Fox owned and operated television station  licensed to TampaFloridaUnited States and also serving the nearby city of St. Petersburg. Owned by the Fox Television Stations subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, WTVT maintains studio facilities located on West Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, and its transmitter is located in Riverview.

Twenty-First Century Fox reported revenue of $28.5 billion for fiscal 2017.

Charter Communications is an American telecommunications company, which offers its services to consumers and businesses under the branding of Spectrum. Providing services to over 25 million customers in 41 states,[1] it is the second largest cable 
operator in the United States by subscribers, just behind Comcast, and third largest pay TV operator behind Comcast and AT&T U-verse/DirecTV.[4] It is the fifth largest telephone provider based upon residential subscriber line count.
In late 2012, with the naming of longtime Cablevision executive Thomas Rutledge as their CEO, the company relocated its corporate headquarters from St. LouisMissouri, to StamfordConnecticut, although many operations still remain based out of St. Louis.[5] On May 18, 2016, Charter acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks for a combined $71.4 billion, making it the third-largest pay television service in the United States

Operating revenue US$ 29.003 billion

Frontier Communications Corporation is a telecommunications company in the United States. It was known as Citizens Utilities Company until May 2000 and Citizens Communications Company until July 31, 2008. The company previously served primarily rural areas and smaller communities, but now also serves several large metropolitan markets. Frontier is the fourth largest provider of digital subscriber line (based on coverage area) in the United States.[5][6]In addition to local and long-distance telephone service, Frontier offers broadband Internet, digital television service, and computer technical support to residential and business customers in 29 states in the United States. (In Pinellas and Hillsborough counties they operate the former GTE Verizon FIOS cable and internet service.)

Most recent revenue 2013 US $4,761.576 million.

It is not the local operations but the large corporations that own them who would be interested a broadcast, internet, regional print combo that could be a veritable media powerhouse in the Tampa Bay area. A one-stop shop for major media buys.

Will the Times sell?

There was a time not too long ago that broadcast and especially Internet companies proposing a merger or buyout would have been not so politely shown the door at the Times.

Things are different now. Revenues are dropping. Real property has been sold to keep the newspaper afloat. Concessions to those with money, power and their own interests have been made to secure additional financing.

Staffing is down, and over-all journalistic quality is suffering.

The wolf is no longer at the door, he is roaming the halls.

This move by the FCC has given the real values of troubled print operations a temporary shot in the arm. In a media market like Tampa Bay, competition to acquire the Times could turn into a momentary bidding war.

All of this will last only for a short time. As soon as the media moguls get over the “my newspaper is bigger than your newspaper” the values of what’s left will fall through the floor.

Now may very well be the time for Tash and his band of cohorts to take the money, set up an endowment for the Pointer Institute, pay off the creditors and call it a day.

After all of that is done there may not be much left to spread around among the good old boys at the Times, but it is far better than a bankruptcy or fire sale where there is only one bid and when they open the envelope, the bid is from Peter Schorsch.

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