Sinclair-Tribune deal affects all but one Iowa market

Sinclair Broadcasting Group, an owner of TV stations across the country that’s going to get more coverage about its visible political stances but is better known to consumers for repeatedly playing hardball on cable and satellite retransmission agreements, is about to get bigger.

Tribune Media, created when the Tribune Company split* into print and broadcast companies in mid-2014, owns WHO in Des Moines and WQAD in the Quad Cities. (This is readily evident in the identical website design, just as you can tell all the Hearst stations’ websites.) Sinclair owns stations in four other Iowa media markets, including the semi-recent acquisition of both KTVO and KHQA in the state’s southeast corner.

If this deal were to go through without any area divestments, Sinclair would have at least one foothold in every Iowa media market except Mason City. Sinclair would own and/or operate 10 of 28 main Iowa-related TV stations (seven markets times four affiliates). It would have two in central Iowa (Sinclair already owns KDSM) and the Keokuk/Hannibal/Quincy area. It would have “one and a half” in Sioux City because it owns Fox station KPTH and operates but does not own CBS station KMEG, and also in eastern Iowa because it owns KGAN and operates but does not own KFXA. Three of those duplications have a “UHF discount” factor; all the Fox affiliates are UHF, way back to when Channel 17 was full of old movies and ads for Big Sur Waterbeds.**

Sinclair yanked its stations off Mediacom in early 2007, then nearly did it again in 2009; it nearly did it to Dish in 2012 and actually did it in 2015. Since then, Mediacom has passed on the increased “local broadcast station surcharges” to its customers. Sinclair is going to get a LOT more leverage, and consumers will incrementally pay the price.

On a wider Midwestern note, the TV station once controlled by the World’s Greatest Newspaper (and its modern cable superstation) will now have to answer to Baltimore. While that may not be the most visible or important part of this deal, it’s the end of an era.

*And then Tribune Publishing became “tronc,” which is the sound made by a formerly respected member of the community who shows up at church with his pants on his head.

**Back when waterbeds were a thing.

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