WYTV's prospective buyer already owns 13 television stations and four newspapers.
THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
ATLANTA -- The general manager of WYTV-33 in Youngstown said Atlanta-based Gray Communications Systems' plan to buy the station as part of a $500 million, all-cash deal is good news for the local operation.
Gray has signed a letter of intent to buy 21 midsize-market television stations, including WYTV, from Illinois-based Stations Holding Co. Inc.
Stations Holding is the parent company of Benedek Broadcasting Corp., which owns and operates 22 stations in 21 markets. Stations filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection March 22.
Local reaction: Bob Romine, vice president and general manager at WYTV, said the Gray acquisition would have "a positive impact" on the Youngstown station, if it happens.
"Gray and Benedek have the same philosophies about operating a television station," Romine said. "The only difference is that Gray has the financial wherewithal to do things to improve ratings."
Those things might include increasing staff and making technological improvements, he said. WYTV has the equivalent of 78 full-time employees.
Romine said he expects to continue business as usual, at least until the sale is final, probably sometime in the fourth quarter.
He said WYTV accepted delivery Monday of high-definition TV transmitter equipment worth about $1 million which had been ordered by the Benedek. Installation is under way.
The station also expects to install a new digital platform of cameras, recorders and other equipment worth about $200,000 by sometime in the second quarter.
Owns other stations: Gray already owns 13 television stations in 11 markets and publishes four daily newspapers, including The Albany Herald, Gwinnett Daily Post and The Rockdale Citizen in Georgia and The Goshen News in Indiana.
Romine said Gray's philosophy for its television stations emphasizes a strong news presence and community image.
"This deal has been bantered back and forth for a couple years for the specific reason that both companies were good for one another," he said, adding that Stations Holding also considered buying Gray at one time.
The deal is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.
In a separate deal, Benedek-owned WTRF-TV in Wheeling will be sold for $18.5 million to West Virginia Media Holdings LLC.
The companies touted their geographic compatibility, with clusters of stations in the Southeast, Great Lakes and Texas after the transaction is completed.
Richard Benedek founded the company in 1979 when he bought WTAP television station in Parkersburg, W.Va. Benedek has 10 CBS affiliates, seven ABC affiliates, four NBC affiliates and one FOX station.
The combined operation will have 35 stations, including 20 CBS affiliates, the most of any non-network broadcaster, Gray said. Benedek will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Gray. President Jim Yager will remain part of the management team.