Gray and Raycom must divest broadcast television stations in nine marketsStaff Writer | December 15, 2018
The Department of Justice announced that it will require Gray Television and Raycom Media to divest broadcast television stations in nine markets as a condition of resolving a challenge to the proposed $3.6 billion merger between Gray and Raycom.
America Without the divestitures the merger would eliminate head-to-head competition
At the same time, the Division filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the suit by remedying the competitive harms alleged in the complaint, through the divestitures and related conditions.
According to the complaint, without the divestitures the merger would eliminate head-to-head competition between Gray and Raycom in the nine local markets in which the divestitures are being required.
In each of those markets, the transaction would increase the number of “Big Four” affiliate stations owned by Gray (i.e., affiliates of NBC, CBS, ABC, or FOX), leaving Gray with two or more Big Four stations in each area. The divestiture markets are Knoxville, Tennessee; Toledo, Ohio; Waco–Temple–Bryan, Texas; Tallahassee, Florida–Thomasville, Georgia; Augusta, Georgia; Odessa-Midland, Texas; Panama City, Florida; Albany, Goergia; and Dothan, Alabama.
As a result of the merger, the combined company would likely charge cable and satellite companies higher retransmission fees to carry the combined company’s broadcast stations, resulting in higher monthly cable and satellite bills for millions of Americans.
The merger would also enable the company to charge local businesses and other advertisers higher prices for spot advertising in the divestiture markets.
Businesses rely on competition among broadcast station owners to obtain reasonable advertising prices. Gray and Raycom compete with one another for the business of local advertisers, and the proposed merger would eliminate that competition, harming local businesses.
The Antitrust Division has determined that the divestitures would resolve antitrust concerns related to the licensing of Big Four television retransmission consent and the sale of broadcast television spot advertising that would otherwise result from the merger.
The divestitures required under the settlement announced today would, if approved by the court, require Gray to sell the Big Four affiliate stations currently owned by either Raycom or Gray in each of the nine markets where the companies have Big Four overlaps.
The settlement requires that the divestitures be accomplished in such a way as to satisfy the United States that the divested stations and associated assets will be used by the buyers as part of a viable, ongoing commercial television broadcasting business. ■