Chattanooga's ABC television affiliate, WTVC-TV9, should get a new owner by next spring, pending regulatory and shareholder approval.
Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. announced an agreement Wednesday to buy the broadcast division of Freedom Communications, including Channel 9 in Chattanooga and seven other TV stations, for $385 million.
"We believe our expertise and presence will enable us to improve the stations' competitive position and profitability," Sinclair CEO David Smith said in announcing the purchase.
Freedom Communications emerged from bankruptcy in April. The newspaper and broadcast company said the deal with Sinclair will leave the company free from debt, "allowing us to take advantages of opportunities that may arise in the future," Freedom CEO Mitchell Stern said.
With the purchase, Sinclair will boost its television presence in West Palm Beach, Fla., Freedom's largest market. Smith said the acquisition also "allows us to expand our middle market position and network diversification."
The sale is subject to approval by shareholders of Freedom by next Tuesday and will be reviewed by both the U.S. Department of Justice on anti-trust grounds and the Federal Communications Commission, which must approve the TV license transfers.
The Freedom-owned television stations included in the sale are in West Palm Beach; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Albany, N.Y.; Chattanooga; Lansing, Mich.; Medford-Klamath Falls, Ore.; and Beaumont, Texas. Collectively, the stations generated $115.4 million in revenue last year, according to estimates from BIA/Kelsey, a media consulting and research firm.
WTVC-TV9 in Chattanooga has been owned by Freedom Communications since 1984.