(Reuters) - Buyout firm Apollo Global Management LLC has agreed to acquire a majority stake in 14 television stations from privately held Cox Media Group, the company said on Friday, a move that sets up Apollo to become a player in broadcasting, an industry it has sought deals in for some time.
While Apollo and Cox did not disclose financial terms, sources said the transaction was valued at around $3 billion.
The stations are in cities such as Seattle, Boston and Jacksonville, Florida, and reach more than 31 million U.S. viewers.
Apollo is also gaining control of several radio, news, and television properties in Ohio, the company said.
Broadcast television operators are looking to either gain scale or exit the space as viewership, and advertising dollars, increasingly shift to providers of web-based, streaming content.
Reuters previously reported that Apollo was nearing a deal to acquire Cox’s stations.
Apollo is also a bidder for a portfolio of local TV stations worth about $1 billion that Nexstar Media Group Inc plans to shed following its $4.1 billion takeover of Tribune Media Co, Reuters reported. If Apollo wins that group of stations, it would combine the assets with the Cox TV stations, sources have said.
Apollo also has an agreement to acquire the assets of Northwest Broadcasting, which owns more than a dozen TV stations in mostly rural markets in the Pacific Northwest, and combine them with the Cox assets, Reuters reported.
Cox said last July it was exploring options for its 14-station portfolio.
The broadcast media sector has seen a flurry of merger talks amid expectations that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission could relax restrictions on how many stations broadcasters can operate.
Private equity firms find broadcast TV stations appealing because of the cash-rich fees the stations generate from being carried by cable operators.
Apollo would also be able to cut costs at Cox’s TV stations, which have been family-controlled for many years.
Apollo tried unsuccessfully last year to acquire both Nexstar and Tribune Media, in separate attempts.
Barclays PLC, Moelis & Co LLC and BDT & Co LLC advised Cox. RBC Capital Markets LLC, Guggenheim Partners LLC, and LionTree Advisors LLC advised Apollo.
Reporting by Carl O'Donnell and Liana B. Baker in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz