DOJ Set to Approve Nexstar-Tribune Merger Following Divestitures

WASHINGTON—The Nexstar-Tribune merger is one step closer to completion following a green light signal from the Justice Department that it would approve the proposed $6.4 billion merger following the companies divestiture of a number of TV stations.

The Justice Department provided its conditional approval in a pair of documents—one a civil antitrust suit against the deal in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, and the other a settlement between the three parties that if approved by the court would resolve the complaints alleged in the suit by the divestiture of the TV stations and related conditions.

DOJ argued that without the proposed divestitures, head-to-head competition in 13 television markets would be eliminated, allowing the combined Nexstar-Tribune to unfairly charge higher retransmission fees that could result in higher monthly bills for consumers, as well as higher prices for spot advertisements.

“Without the required divestitures, Nexstar’s merger with Tribune threatens significant competitive harm to cable and satellite TV subscribers and small businesses,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim from the DOJ’s Antitrust Division. “I am pleased, however, that we have been able to reach a resolution of the Division’s concerns, thanks in part to the parties’ commitment to engage in good faith settlement talks from the outset of our investigation.”

As a result of the settlement, Nexstar and Tribune will be required to sell one or more stations currently owned by the companies in each of the 13 markets: Davenport, Iowa; Des Moines, Iowa; Ft. Smith, Ark.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Harrisburg, Penn.; Hartford, Conn.; Huntsville, Ala.; Indianapolis; Memphis; Norfolk, Va.; Richmond, Va.; Salt Lake City; and Wilkes-Barre, Penn.

This settlement also resolves challenges raised by attorney generals in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Should the merger of Nexstar and Tribune be made official, Nexstar would become the largest broadcast group in the U.S.

The FCC must still complete its public interest review of the merger, which deals with more than antitrust issues.