The owners of Lima NBC affiliate WLIO/35 are taking over every other TV network affiliate station in the market.
The Lima News reports that Toledo-based Block Communications has agreed to pay $2.3 million dollars for Greg Phipps' four area LPTV stations, including the FOX (WOHL-CA 25), CBS (WLMO-LP 38) and ABC (WLQP-LP 18) affiliates in the Lima market. Another $100,000 will go to Greg and Kathleen Phipps for signing a non-compete agreement.
The deal also takes in one of Phipps' stations that isn't technically in the Lima market - America One affiliate WFND-LP 22 Findlay.
The Lima News reprints the deal filed with the FCC here (PDF file).
Block's Toledo empire includes the Toledo Blade newspaper, Buckeye Cablevision, CW Network cable-only affiliate "WT05" and the Buckeye Cable Sports Network.
From the article:
Block Communications President Gary Blair said the stations will be operated separate from WLIO including retaining its own newscast. The stations will continue to operate out of the South Central Avenue location, he said.
"We want to keep those stations independent," he said.
Still, Blair tells the Lima paper that they have through the end of the year to "review" the dynamics of the purchase, including anything related to jobs. We find it hard to picture that the Phipps LPTVers won't eventually be streamlined into WLIO, for efficiency and economic reasons if nothing else.
While negotiating the sale, Block and Phipps have been battling in court. The FOX affiliate's owner had charged Block with trying to get in the way of renewal talks between WOHL and the network...which will now be dealing with Block as the incoming new owners of "FOX Lima".
How can one company own basically all the viewing choices in a market like Lima?
The move will give Block control of nearly all network affiliations in the market, including the off-pattern MyNetwork TV airing on WOHL.
(We say "nearly all" because Block's WLIO dumped the CW Network feed off of its DT2 subchannel a couple of months ago, a move that returned the "CW Plus" cable-only feed to Lima viewers. And of course, religious/independent WTLW/44 is the other full-power Lima commercial station.)
But LPTV outlets don't count when it comes to FCC ownership limits. It's the second such deal in recent months, after Schurz Communications announced it was buying a similar LPTV cluster in South Bend IN to add to its full-power CBS affiliate (and a locally programmed DT2 subchannel).
The folks at Television Business Report (tvbr.com) note that the South Bend deal attracted "national attention from watchdogs", and wonder if this deal in Lima will see the same scrutiny...