October 7, 2015 Last Updated 10:38 am

NYPost report says that Media General is backing away from its deal with Meredith

Update: Source tells TNM that, as of now, Media General continues to support Meredith deal as it looks closely at the competing bid from TV station owner Nexstar

The deal between Meredith and Media General has fallen apart, the NY Post reported last night. The deal would have merged to players in the local television business, with Meredith’s print magazines vulnerable to sale or a spin-off. As part of the deal, Meredith CEO Stephen Lacy was to have become Chief Executive Officer and President of the new business, Meredith Media General.

BHG-Oct15-300But the deal soon began to unravel when another player in the local TV space, Nexstar submitted an unsolicited bid, using their lack of print products as a selling point. Then Starboard Capital, a 4.5-percent shareholder in Media General, publicly opposed the bid. Another shareholder, Oppenheimer, who owns 7 percent, supposedly also opposed the deal.

Neither player in the deal has yet to publicly confirm that it is dead, but that could come later this morning and at least one source denies the report, saying that for now the Board of Media General continues to support the Meredith deal while it examines the competing bid from the local TV station owner Nexstar. The Post as of this morning, though, seems to be standing by their story.

The Post story speculates that there is a “For Sale” sign on Meredith, and that may be true. But it was only recently that the publisher and broadcaster was in discussions to buy the Time Inc. properties. That deal also fell through as Time Warner decided it was best to spin-off Time Inc. rather than sell off specific properties, leaving it with less desirable assets. Time Inc. still does look like a prime acquisition target, but now it may require a private equity buyer, one that would roll-up not only the Time assets, but Meredith’s print titles, as well. Alternatively, Hearst could decide to become a buyer.

What prevents a sale, however, is the knowledge that in any of these possible deals the real targets would be the small number of profitable titles that are consider attractive, with the rest of the titles useful only in driving up the sale price. Any experienced M&A professional will tell you that these properties often poison the deal. If you see either of these big publisher begin to cull their portfolio in the next six months it may well be to make themselves a more attractive buy-out target. For Meredith, the other option would be to spin-off its magazine business, making it a more attractive acquisition for another broadcaster.

Speaking of Hearst, my old employer… the publisher has updated its iOS digital edition apps, including Esquire, Cosmopolitan and Road & Track – 19 titles so far, with the others soon to follow.

MC-cover-Oct15Each app description is the same: Update today for minor bug fixes and performance enhancements.

Hearst has incredible problems with their digital edition apps, far more than other publishers. Yet, many of their digital editions are pretty good – that is, not all of the them are PDF replicas (though some are).

The two problems readers have with the Hearst digital edition apps have always been that 1) Hearst from the get-go forced readers to buy the digital issues even if they are print subscribers, and 2) there have been regular problems with the back-end of the apps, the fulfillment function.

At first it looked like Hearst’s decision to force readers to make a choice between print and digital might payoff. Many of Hearst’s titles quickly grew their digital subscription numbers. Esquire, for instance, looked like it would hit the 10 percent mark early on, but peaked at 6.9 percent and has fallen back since then. (Growth in single copy digital, through Next Issue Media, though, has helped get the percentage of overall digital circulation up.)

Reading through the latest reader comments the Hearst apps, I see no pattern of complaints regarding the apps since the release of iOS 9 – definitely a good sign.

MLB.com At Bat has been updated again. The app was updated for the playoffs just last week, but another update was issued to fix some bugs.

The playoffs started last night with the Houston Astros knocking off the Yankees – something that must have made Fox executives cry. Now, its up to the Mets to keep hope alive for the NY market. But the Mets play the LA Dodgers, meaning that while that series should be a ratings winner, the team that loses means a decrease in viewership from either NY or LA.

Last year TV execs cringed at the idea of a Giants-Royals World Series. But Game Seven was ratings winner for Fox, with the network’s best non-NFL rating in more than 3 years.

Gannett will be closing down its print facility in Springfield, Virginia outside Washington. The operation will be shuttered by February 28 with the loss of around 250 jobs.

Meanwhile, London-based real estate investor Tamares Group has closed on its $270 million acquisition of the Tysons Corner Gannett corporate headquarters. Gannett, which is now the newspaper spin-off of the former Gannett corporation, has signed a 12-year lease with Tamares to remain in the building.

Comments are closed.