Four West Virginia television stations would be taken over by Nexstar Broadcasting Group for $130 million under an agreement announced Tuesday by the company.
Nexstar, a Texas-based media company, announced its plan to purchase four stations owned by West Virginia Media Holdings, including WTRF in Wheeling, WVNS in Beckley, WBOY in Clarksburg and WOWK in Charleston and Huntington.
Broadcaster Bray Cary and a group of investors made waves between 2001 and 2003 by buying the four stations, along with The State Journal weekly business newspaper.
Cary, along with partner Marty Becker, a Connecticut investment banker and fellow West Virginia University alumnus, partnered with 250 mostly local investors to raise $100 million and form West Virginia Media Holdings. Together, the stations covered 90 percent of the state.
George Manahan, the spokesman for West Virginia Media Holdings, said The State Journal, the weekly print newspaper produced by the company, is not included in that deal. He said The State Journal would remain the property of West Virginia Media Holdings.
Manahan said Nexstar is expected to also take over the rights to West Virginia University’s media contract, which IMG College and West Virginia Media Holdings won in 2013 with an $86.5 million deal over 12 years.
According to a company news release, three of the four television stations being acquired hold top spots in their markets, based on revenue shares.
The release also stated that the acquisition will increase Nexstar’s portfolio to include 115 television stations in 62 markets and 25 states. Those stations will reach about 20.5 million households, or 18.1 percent of all U.S. households with a television.
“The West Virginia markets, and the eastern Ohio reach of one of the stations, represent a natural complement to our existing operations in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, with the added benefit of having high levels of political advertising activity,” said Perry Sook, Nexstar Broadcasting Group’s chairman, president and chief executive officer.
Since 2011, Nexstar has acquired 66 television stations and four digital-media businesses for about $1.3 billion, according to the release.
“Nexstar is an industry leader and the sale of WV Media stations to Nexstar will broaden and strengthen the West Virginia media network we started 14 years ago,” said Bray Cary, West Virginia Media Holdings’ chief executive officer.
According to the news release, the addition of Nexstar’s existing station in Hagerstown, Maryland — WHAG — will allow the network to broadcast news from the Eastern Panhandle, the fastest growing area in the state, into homes around West Virginia.
“The additional non-stop news from the Eastern Panhandle and Washington, D.C., area will truly create the largest and only true statewide news and marketing network,” Cary said.
Mark Kraham, the news director for WHAG, said he is optimistic about what the acquisition means for the company and his station, which has covered six counties in the Eastern Panhandle for 46 years.
By merging West Virginia Media Holdings’ four stations into Nexstar’s northeast region, Kraham said, it will allow stations all over West Virginia to cooperate on coverage and content sharing. He said the vast majority of the state will now have access to Nexstar’s network of stations.
“We’re excited about the opportunity it gives us to give expanded coverage to West Virginia news,” he said.
Hugh Breslin, a vice president and general manager with Nexstar, said people in the Eastern Panhandle will now be able to get more news from Charleston and viewers in Charleston will be able to learn about breaking news in Martinsburg.
“We’re excited to have access to their content, and I expect them to be excited to have access to our content,” Breslin said.
A 2003 Associated Press profile of West Virginia Media Holdings noted that Cary’s fiduciary responsibility to his partners meant he could sell to an out-of-state conglomerate at any time.
Cary acknowledged that possibility in the AP article but said he was committed to a five- to 10-year plan before even considering a sale or public stock offering.
“If the model is working, then a buyer won’t want to change it,” he said. “If it’s not working, well . . .” He paused, then laughed. “Then they’ll be asking, ‘Whatever happened to that Bray Cary guy?’ ”