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Broadcast deal market Q1 2021 – One deal almost exceeds all of 2020

In the first quarter of 2021, the broadcast deal market registered a total deal volume of $998.1 million ($955.6 million from TV and $42.5 million from radio deals), almost matching the total deal volume of 2020 ($1.02 billion). At first glance, that looks like a huge number. However, 92.7% of the total is attributable to just one transaction, while of the other 148 deals filed with the FCC only 14 registered a deal volume of $1 million or more.

The quarter's top deal was Gray Television Inc.'s $925.0 million acquisition of Quincy Media Inc., announced in February. The purchase is another milestone for Gray, whose small-market empire now includes more than 100 TV markets, 82 of them below rank 75.

The transaction will have a ripple effect on future deal market dynamics, as Gray announced that it will spin off ten of the 23 DTV stations purchased from Quincy. These divestitures could yield up to $300 million.

The only other relatively large TV station deal was the $10.0 million sale of two Class-A TV stations in Los Angeles from NRJ Holdings LLC to Sovryn Holdings Inc.

Without the Gray/Quincy transaction, the TV deal market would have registered a deal volume of $31.6 million. That is less than half of the TV deal volume from 2020's first quarter ($66.2 million) — the last quarter largely unaffected by the crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The largest radio deal of 2021's first quarter was the $7.1 million sale of three FM stations in Kentucky and Ohio from Vernon R. Baldwin Inc. to Educational Media Foundation Inc. This transaction highlights the big role of non-profit operators in the current radio deal market. 46% of the first quarter's radio deal volume came from non-commercial (mostly religious) entities.

The second quarter of 2020 registered the lowest quarterly deal volume in our records, which go back 38 years. But since then, the radio deal market has managed to move ahead at a slow but steady pace. Not counting the value of the two radio stations in the Gray/Quincy deal, the first-quarter 2021 radio market registered a deal volume of $41.5 million. That's $5 million more than in the first quarter of 2020, when we registered nine radio transactions between $1.0 million and $10.8 million. Similarly, this year's first quarter included eight radio station transactions between $1.0 million and $7.1 million.

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