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Alaska's KTUU to be sold to Georgia media company

  • Author: Sean Doogan
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published September 14, 2015

Anchorage NBC affiliate KTUU-TV is changing hands for the second time in just over seven years as its parent corporation, Indiana-based Schurz Communications Inc., is proposing to sell all of its U.S. radio and TV holdings to Georgia-based Gray Television, Inc.

Gray Television announced Monday it had agreed to purchase all Schurz radio and TV stations, including KTUU, for $445.5 million pending Federal Communications Commission approval.

According to a press release from Gray posted Monday, the purchase of Schurz's stations will expand its reach to 49 television markets in 29 states.

Schurz bought KTUU for $26 million in March 2008.

KTUU's president and general manager, Andy MacLeod, said viewers shouldn't notice changes.

"The ownership will change in six months to a year, and that will be an opportunity for us to be part of a bigger media company at a time when the industry is consolidating in television and cable nationwide and scale is a critical element for the future," MacLeod said. "Gray will provide scale significantly larger than we have ever had.

"Gray is seen as a quality operator that has a vision and commitment to journalistic integrity and excellence and community service similar to that of Schurz, and consistent with Channel 2 News standards...," MacLeod said.

Gray Television said it would hold a conference call about the sale on Tuesday morning.

Before the sale, Schurz owned television stations in 10 U.S. markets including Roanoke, Virginia CBS affiliate WDBJ-TV -- where a former employee shot and killed a reporter and cameraman while the duo were doing a live morning broadcast on Aug. 26, 2015.

One media analyst said he was surprised by the sale of Schurz's television and radio assets.

"I am shocked because I didn't see that one coming, I really didn't. That's a company (Schurz) that has been an absolutely terrific owner," said Al Tompkins, senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute.

Tompkins said Schurz had a history of sinking a lot of money into its stations, as it did when it bought KTUU in 2008, and built a new studio and office.

Tompkins believes that Gray Television will not likely change much about the operations of the stations it buys from Schurz, especially in Anchorage.

"Cleaning house is not their style," Tompkins said. "Any corporation has a corporate culture that they will instill, but you don't go in and start changing very successful operations."

Gray Television, Inc. currently owns 27 television stations. The purchase of Schurz's holding will increase that number by as many as 10, but the final count has yet to be determined because the purchase would require the sell-off of at least one station in markets where both companies (Schurz and Gray) operate.

Tompkins said Gray, a larger player in small- to medium-sized television markets, will bring with it more bargaining power when it is time to negotiate with cable companies for retransmission fees -- money paid to local stations by cable companies carrying them.

But, Tompkins said, with another election coming up, and with it the chance to make a lot of money by airing political commercials, the timing of the sale was right -- especially in Alaska.

During the 2014 election cycle, KTUU-TV aired more political advertising than any other station in the country.

Gray Television said it would hold a conference call about the sale on Tuesday morning.

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