Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA) is considering offloading its local TV station business into a joint venture with privately held broadcast station owner ION Media Networks Inc., according to a person familiar with the situation.
The idea of creating a separate entity to manage Fox Television Stations LLC -- which holds 28 Fox, MyNetworkTV, CW and independent stations -- isn't a new one but has become more pressing given the likelihood that Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. (SGBI) will get regulatory approval for its acquisition of Tribune Media Co. (TRCO) .
Fox, which came up short in its own pursuit of Tribune, has reached out to Ion about a joint venture given that Sinclair stands to own TV stations that would account for 30% of Fox's local network group if it successfully closed the Tribune Media deal. Sinclair's ownership of Fox-affiliated networks would make it the largest owner of local stations tied to any one of the four major broadcasters.
Fox and Ion declined to comment on the possibility of a deal, which was reported on Wednesday, Aug. 2, by Bloomberg. Sinclair didn't reply to requests for comment.
If Fox and ION do work out a deal, they would create a separate entity to manage Fox's local stations, including its affiliates in New York and Los Angeles, along with more than 60 Fox and other stations owned by Ion. And if Fox were to not renew its 26 affiliate agreements with Sinclair, it could hypothetically switch those contracts to stations owned by ION. Those agreements with Sinclair come up for renewal this year.