An Atlanta-based media company has struck a $2.7 billion deal to buy a portfolio of Meredith Corp. television stations that includes Nashville’s WSMV Channel 4.

Gray Television executives plan to complete their purchase of the 17 stations, which are located in 12 media markets, by the end of the year. The deal will grow Gray’s business to about $3.1 billion in annual revenue and make the company the country’s second-largest TV broadcaster with a reach into about 36 percent of households.

WSMV has been under Meredith’s umbrella since early 1995, when the company paid Cook Inlet Television Partners $159 million. Per company filings, the station averaged an audience market share of 6.4 percent from late 2019 through the spring of 2020. That was down from 6.7 percent from same period the year prior and 7.7 percent from the mark of late 2017 to mid-2018.

The Gray-Meredith deal requires the approval of regulators and Meredith investors. It’s the second attempt in recent years by Meredith (which as part of this deal will also spin out its magazine, digital and marketing businesses) to sell: In September 2015, Meredith leaders and their peers at Media General said the latter planned to pay $2.4 billion for Meredith. That deal was torpedoed less than five months later, when Nexstar Broadcasting said it would buy Media General.

“The television station portfolios, company cultures, and commitments to localism of Gray and Meredith are highly complementary,” Gray Executive Chairman and CEO Hilton Howell said in a statement.

Word of the Meredith deal comes three months after Howell and his team said they’d pay $925 million for Quincy Media to grow into about 10 markets, many of them in the Midwest. Gray executives said Monday they have identified $55 million worth of cost savings for the first year after the Meredith deal’s close.

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Adding a "V" to the WSM-TV call letters (courtesy of George Gillette) signaled the beginning of the end of the Golden Era of Channel 4 News, and along with it its reputation for leadership, integrity and credibility among local news organizations. Gray already has a foothold in Nashville with Circle TV, while Circle TV and WSMV both televise the Grand Ole Opry (the former "live," the latter tape-delayed til Sunday evening). The optimist in me wants Gray a chance but in return I expect to see less "breaking news" every day (though I expect nothing less when there is real urgency), increased investigative reporting, consumer news and an entertainment reporter who has not been co-opted by Music Row and who otherwise knows how to cover the Row as a business rather than as a smitten fan.


Hopefully the new owners can get this station back on track. We stopped watching local programming years ago. Their best talent appears to either gets fired or they quit. .

Phil Martin

My dad used to say, "you can't cut your way to growth." When the first thing they say about the station they just bought is: "we've identified $55 million in savings", it makes you wonder what kind of owner they will be. Best of luck to everyone at channel 4.

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