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Major business

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Media Analysis

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Media Investment

Meredith mulls broadcast-publishing split

Meredith Corp is considering joining the trend of splitting up its broadcasting and publishing units.

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Meredith mulls broadcast-publishing split

Michelle Clancy
Meredith Corp is considering joining the trend of splitting up its broadcasting and publishing units.

CEO Stephen Lacy told Bloomberg Television that his company could proceed with a split, perhaps in partnership with another media company.

The news comes just a week after Meredith agreed to terminate a planned merger deal with Media General, allowing the latter to be acquired by Nexstar, following a bidding war. From an operational standpoint, Meredith is left with its 17 local TV stations that reach 11% of US households and a portfolio of magazines such as Parents, Family Circle and Eating Well.

The fact that it is one of the few US media companies that has chosen to keep its TV and publishing assets under one roof was an issue for Media General in the merger discussions, according to Carl Salas, an analyst at Moody's Investors Service.

"One of the concerns was that Media General had earlier exited the publishing business, and with the Meredith deal they would be bringing it back," he said.

Nexstar CEO Perry Sook said the same in a September letter to Media General, where he said that a deal with Meredith "exposes Media General once again to the publishing business" and created a company with an earnings mix "with significant exposure toward publishing".

A broadcast-publishing split has been pursued by a number of companies in recent years. In 2012, Media General sold 63 daily and weekly newspaper titles, including Richmond Times-Dispatch and Winston-Salem Journal – to Berkshire Hathaway, preferring to focus instead on a growing portfolio of TV affiliates. Tribune Co split into Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing in 2013. Also that year, News Corp spun off its print division (consisting of The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and various British and Australian papers) under the News Corp name, leaving its media and entertainment business to continue on its own under the 21st Century Fox name.

Meanwhile, E W Scripps and Journal Communications in 2014 completed twin spinoffs and mergers, consolidating their broadcast properties and newspapers in two separate companies. Gannett Co did the same, creating TEGNA for its broadcast TV properties, while the newspaper continue under Gannett Co.

Nothing is a sure thing; Lacy noted that the company had been investing heavily in acquisition: “We have a lot of dry powder – about five deals are in the works. Finding good and creative deals is really where we are focusing our attention.”