Cox Blasts Nexstar-Media General Merger

ATLANTA —Cox Communications is not holding its peace about the $4.6 billion marriage of Nexstar and Media General, announced in September and consummated yesterday. In the opening salvo of yet another publicly fought retransmission negotiation, the cable operator today said that Nexstar is holding it over a barrel.

“Cox Communications strongly urges the public to voice its opposition of the merger to the Federal Communications Commission. Nexstar is demanding Cox Communications customers pay triple the current price for retransmission consent or Nexstar will remove their signal from the Cox Communications lineup on Jan. 29,” the cable operator said in a statement. “Nexstar won’t even accept the very same rate that stations they manage agreed to just two weeks ago.”

Cox went on to quote Jonathan Kuperberg’s report in B&C regarding the merged companies’ size and its intent to raise revenues via retrans consent—a fairly typical strategy in TV station group mergers:

“...Nexstar sees the merger as a way to improve retransmission consent renegotiations... The new Nexstar Media Group’s 171 full power broadcast stations will be the most of any television group in the nation.”

The courtship between Nexstar and Media General began in late September when Nexstar made an unsolicited $4.1 billion bid for Media General and its 71 TV stations. At the time, Media General had already said yes to a $2.4 billion deal to merge with Meredith to create a group with 88 TV stations in 54 markets reaching 21 percent of U.S. TV households. Nexstar came in offering the $4.1 billion. Meredith balked at first, but then stood aside for a $60 million break-up fee. Media General then held out for the $4.6 billion purchase price announced yesterday.

Cox concluded its volley across the Nexstar-Media General bow with a protest of the merger.

“Nexstar should not be allowed to become a larger company, which would force more cable TV/satellite companies and ultimately customers to pay higher fees for retransmission consent. This merger is bad for business, bad for consumers and is not in the public interest.”

Also see... January 7, 2016
TV Merger Triangle Unfolds
The drama involving Media General, Nexstar and Meredith unfolded in successive press releases Thursday morning that read as if the bride switched grooms on the fly.