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Mission finalizes deal to buy 2 LR TV stations

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published January 4, 2013 at 10:33 a.m. Updated January 4, 2013 at 11:02 a.m.

— Mission Broadcasting has completed a $60 million deal to purchase two Little Rock television stations and then outsource their operation to Nexstar Broadcasting Group, company officials said.

Nexstar, which owns KARK-TV and KARZ-TV, said in a statement that it has entered into an agreement with Mission Broadcasting to manage Fox affiliate KLRT and and CW affiliate KASN after they were purchased from Newport Television.

It wasn't clear specifically what the deal will mean for programming on KLRT and KASN, but the longtime general manager of the stations was fired Thursday.

Chuck Spohn said KARK general manager Mike Vaughn will be leader of the "consolidated properties." He said he didn't know whether there were additional personnel moves or plans to consolidate news programming.

"They did not give me any indication of what type of course of action they will be taking," Spohn said. "You know, that would be just absolute speculation on my part."

Jennifer Neuman, a spokesman for Nexstar, said company policy prohibits releasing any information on personnel moves. She said she had no information on what the developments mean for programming.

"Management hasn't really disclosed any details as far as the news operations are concerned," she said.

Nexstar Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Perry A. Sook said in a statement that the transaction is "consistent with our core strategy to expand our operations and pursue financial and operating synergies to enhance free cash flow."

"We look forward to leveraging our knowledge of the Little Rock market, as we provide services to Mission, for the benefit of viewers of KLRT and KASN while creating an even stronger marketing platform for local area businesses," Sook said in the statement.

Nexstar bought KLRT and KASN along with 10 other stations in July, announcing then that it would immediately be sold to Mission Broadcasting.

Spohn, whose dismissal was first reported by Arkansas Business, said he hopes to stay in the central Arkansas area and to pursue a new business opportunity.

He said he knew his dismissal was possible when the consolidation was first announced given the "track record" of such moves across the industry.

"I certainly had that in the back of my mind and prepared myself for that," he said. "Obviously I would have preferred the other direction to have maintained my position and continue doing to the good work I've done there."

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Jackabbott says... January 4, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.

These two stations have become big loosers. Other than the network programming they offer, they might as well be run out of China. The FCC should not allow one company to own two stations in one market. Right now the newa comes down to two sources, KATV and the Democrat-Gazette.

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RBBrittain says... January 4, 2013 at 3:24 p.m.

I'm surprised no one really challenged the GROSS stretching of FCC rules in this case -- Nexstar owning two LR stations of its own (KARK & KARZ) *plus* two more (KLRT & KASN) owned by its partner Mission, treated by accounting rules (but *not* FCC rules) as a Nexstar subsidiary, and run by Nexstar under a management agreement. Nexstar & Mission have set up numerous "virtual duopolies" similar to this in smaller TV markets, including three partly in Arkansas (Fort Smith-Fayetteville, Monroe-El Dorado & Springfield-Branson); but to my knowledge this is the FIRST time it's been done in a market of LR's size where the FCC permits an ACTUAL duopoly, so that Nexstar & Mission EACH have a duopoly -- I call it a "virtual QUAD-opoly". The only challenge to this deal was an informal one by a Sherwood man who used it to improperly attack the "virtual duopoly" concept itself, instead of the unique "virtual quad-opoly" created here by establishing two related REAL duopolies.

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Jackabbott says... January 4, 2013 at 7:32 p.m.

RBBrittain- good points. The USA media market is looking like the old Soviet Union model.

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