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Sinclair Broadcast agrees to swap four stations with Media General

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said it will swap four television stations with Media General in a move designed to expand the Baltimore broadcaster's geographic reach and give it greater flexibility for future acquisitions.

Sinclair will acquire a station in Providence, R.I., owned by Media General, two stations in Green Bay, Wis., owned by Lin Media LLC and one station in Savannah, Ga., owned by WTGS Television LLC and operated by Lin. Media General is acquiring Lin.

In exchange, Sinclair will divest its MY station in Tampa and its Fox and CW stations in Colorado Springs, Colo., after the Media General/Lin merger is completed. Sinclair had previously said it will sell WHTM in Harrisburg to Media General, a deal that's expected to close in September.

Because the swap will give Sinclair excess cash-flow, it will pay $31 million to the combined Media General/Lin. Sinclair said it will gain $3.4 million in excess cash flow from the swaps.

After the swap is completed, likely by the beginning of next year, Sinclair stations will reach just over 38 percent of TV households in the U.S., a slight decline from the current market reach. That will give the broadcaster more flexibility under Federal Communications Commission rules to make additional key acquisitions in the future, the company said.

"The Green Bay stations complete our coverage of all the major cities in Wisconsin, an important political swing state," David S. Smith, Sinclair's president and CEO, said in the announcement. "The NBC affiliate in Providence is the No. 1 station in the market and provides us another state capital presence, while the Savannah station strengthens our existing presence in Georgia and the southeast."

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