Politico: KATV Owner Allbritton Mulls TV Station Sale

KATV-TV, Channel 7

Politico, the daily political news website, is reporting that its owner, Allbritton Communications, is exploring a potential sale of its TV stations, which includes ABC affiliate KATV-TV, Channel 7, in Little Rock.

Multiple news outlets are reporting about the memo, sent to Allbritton employees by company Chairman and CEO Robert Allbritton, who said he wants to focus more "resources and expanded mindshare" on Politico, which the company launched in 2007.

From the memo, reprinted in full on Politico.com:

This spring, after careful deliberation and discussion with my family, I have decided to explore strategic options for our television station company, including a potential sale of WJLA / NewsChannel 8 here in Washington, as well as all of our owned and affiliated stations as a group. As part of this process, we have retained a financial advisor to evaluate what we expect will be robust interest from blue-chip media companies in our broadcast properties in seven markets around the nation.

My plan is to use the resources and expanded mindshare that such a move would make available to increase my commitment to POLITICO. Then we can plunge in further on a variety of other potential investments that intrigue me as I contemplate the next chapter for our business.

Calling this the "Golden Age of new media innovation," Allbritton also made clear that he sees Politico as the future of the company:

Let me be unmistakably clear to you and potential buyers: there is no chance, none, I will sell POLITICO as part of the deal. My future is POLITICO and companies like it. In fact, my plan is to invest even more in POLITICO and to place additional bets on media companies that meet my definition of successful journalistic and business enterprises. POLITICO continues to carry no debt, funds all investment with operating income and will still turn a profit, again, in 2013. That is the textbook definition of a thriving, sustainable new media company.

Still, he said contemplating a break from the company's television past was not easy:

As excited as I am about my future and the company’s, it is not an easy decision to contemplate a break from something that is such an important part of our history. I love the television business, and am deeply appreciative of the success I have had in it. I have treasured working with the media professionals at all of our stations, and in recent years, I have especially enjoyed watching the collaboration here in Washington between POLITICO and WJLA / NewsChannel 8. I have always respected the deep connections with communities that our stations have, and am always humbled by the responsibilities—to citizens, to our employees, and to the next generation—that come with ownership.

In addition to Little Rock, Allbritton owns television stations in six other markets: Washington, D.C.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Birmingham, Ala.; Tulsa, Okla.; Lynchburg, Va.; and Charleston, S.C.

KATV has long been a ratings leader in the Little Rock television market. In the most recent TV ratings published by Nielsen Media Research, local KATV newscasts scored the highest household rating and share numbers of the four stations in the Little Rock market.

In Little Rock, KATV news competes with CBS affiliate KTHV-TV, Channel 11, which is owned by publicly traded Gannett Co. Inc.; NBC affiliate KARK-TV, Channel 4, which is owned by publicly traded Nexstar Broadcasting Inc.; and Fox affiliate KLRT-TV, Channel 16, which is owned by Mission Broadcasting.

The market's station ownership picture changed dramatically in January when Mission took control of KLRT after buying it from Newport Television. Mission is now jointly operating KLRT with Nexstar under a shared services agreement. The result has been a virtual merger of some KARK and KLRT news and business operations. Nexstar and Mission have applied similar business models in markets throughout the country, and together they recently added 19 stations in 10 markets in three states.

(Arkansas Business has a news-sharing partnership with KTHV, and Lance Turner appears regularly on KTHV newscasts.)

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