Ion Media (formerly known as Paxson Communications Corporation and Ion Media Networks) is an American broadcasting company that owns and operates over 60 television stations in most major American markets (through its television stations group, Ion Media Television), as well as Ion Television and Ion Plus. It formerly operated Qubo until February 28, 2021. After being operated as a private company through its entire existence, it became a subsidiary of E. W. Scripps Company as of January 7, 2021, after Scripps' purchase of Ion Media to manage those assets separately from its traditional broadcast network-affiliated television stations.
|Formerly||Paxson Communications Corporation (1988–2006)|
Ion Media Networks (2006–2017)
|R. Brandon Burgess (Chairman & CEO)|
|Products||Ion Media Television|
(through Ion Media Entertainment, Ion Media's in-house production unit; formerly Paxson Productions, Paxson Communications Corporation's in-house production unit)
|Revenue||US$415 million (2014)|
Number of employees
|Parent||E. W. Scripps Company|
As Paxson Communications CorporationEdit
This section needs additional citations for verification. (July 2014)
The company was founded in 1988 by Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson in Florida. The company purchased radio stations and a couple of television stations, eventually becoming Florida's largest radio group. The radio stations' formats included rock, contemporary hit radio, news and talk, and adult contemporary. The television stations were network affiliates of ABC and NBC. In 1993 the company began to purchase stations on the outer fringes of large television markets.
The company divested itself of both the radio group and major-network affiliated television stations in 1998, focusing on building its own independent TV network, "PAX TV". The company focused on acquiring UHF television stations. Some of these stations are out-of-market stations, such as WPXD in Ann Arbor, Michigan (45 miles (72 km) from Detroit), KXLI in St. Cloud, Minnesota (60 miles (97 km) from Minneapolis), WTLK in Rome, Georgia (45 miles (72 km) from Atlanta), WPXJ in Pavilion, New York (45 miles (72 km) from both Buffalo and Rochester, New York), and WAYK in Melbourne, Florida (60 miles (97 km) from Orlando). Still in some markets the company bought low-rated stations that had the same type of signals as established stations with medium to high ratings. These stations included WCFC in Chicago (religious), WTGI in Wilmington, Delaware (brokered), WAKC in Akron, Ohio (Cleveland's secondary ABC affiliate), and channel 35 in Miami (Shopping), among others. In the fall of 1997, a tentative lineup was announced, and it included a family entertainment lineup of drama shows, movies, first-run shows, wildlife shows, sitcoms, and talk shows. The most expensive station acquisition was WBIS in New York City. The city government had sold this station to Dow Jones & Company and ITT in 1996 for nearly US$200 million. In January 1997, Dow Jones launched a business format called S+ during the day and a sports channel after 7 pm and on weekends. Dow Jones/ITT lost money on the operation, sold the station for about $225 million in May 1997, and shut down S+ that June in favor of Bloomberg Business News, Fox Sports Net and a block previewing new networks, IntroTV. Channel 31 was renamed WPXN with plans to be the flagship station of PAX TV in the fall of 1998.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the company wanted to buy WPCB, channel 40, from Cornerstone Television, and move the license to channel 16 (which was, and still is, occupied by WINP-TV), with channel 40 used for educational purposes. The two agreed on a purchase price, but the Federal Communications Commission had too many questions about the deal, most relating to the type of broadcast license to be operated on each channel, and it fell through.
The PAX network was launched in 1998 with family dramas such as Life Goes On, Our House, Touched by an Angel, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Highway to Heaven, and Bonanza, a game show titled The Reel to Reel Picture Show, sitcoms Dave's World, Here's Lucy and The Hogan Family, and some movies. The network ran weekdays from noon until 1 am. Due to low ratings and mounting financial costs, PAX TV soon reduced its hours. In 1999, they were reduced to between 3 pm and midnight, and in 2002, they were reduced again to 6 pm to midnight.
In September 1999, NBC bought a 32% stake in Paxson. On December 4, 2001 it was announced that Paxson had filed with the FCC an arbitration to block NBC's acquisition of Telemundo. In September 2002, it was announced that Paxson's arbitration against NBC was denied. On November 13, NBC requested a redemption of its investment in Paxson of $549.2 million. In August 2004, NBC Universal filed a lawsuit against Paxson. On November 7, 2005, to settle several lawsuits between the company and NBC Universal, Lowell Paxson granted NBCU an 18-month transferable option to purchase his shares of the company in an agreement which, if activated, would also trigger a sale of the rest of the company. If Mr. Paxson's shares of the company weren't sold in the option window, the company was obligated to buy them back from Mr. Paxson. Concurrent with this deal, Mr. Paxson left the company, and was succeeded by R. Brandon Burgess in the role of President and CEO.
Stations owned and/or operated outside of future PAX stationsEdit
- Note: This list does NOT include stations eventually joining the PAX television network in 1998.
|Years Owned||Sold To||Present Day|
|1||Bridgeport, CT - New York City, NY||WHAI-TV/WIPX 43 (21)1||1996-1999||Shop at Home Network - 1999||ShopHQ affiliate WZME owned and operated by NRJ TV LLC|
Sale to Weigel Broadcasting pending regulatory approval, as of August 2021
|9||Washington, D.C.||WSIT-LP 422||1996-1999||Capital Media - 1999||Daystar owned and operated WDDN-LD on channel 23|
|11||Phoenix, AZ||K67FE 67||1996-1999||Spanish Independent Broadcasting Network - 1999||K14RK-D, still owned by Spanish Independent Broadcasting Network, now on channel 38|
Station airs a schedule consisting entirely of Spanish music videos
|19||Cleveland - Akron - Canton, OH||WOAC 67||N/A3||Shop at Home Network - 1999||TCT owned and operated WRLM, now on channel 47|
|30||Salt Lake City - Provo - Ogden, UT||KOOG-TV/KUPX 30 (35)4||1997-1999||ACME Communications - 1999||CW network affiliate KUCW, owned by Nexstar Media Group|
|39||Tequesta - West Palm Beach - Fort Pierce - Stuart - Vero Beach, FL||WPBF 25 (16)||1993-1997||Hearst Corporation – 1997||ABC network affiliate owned and operated by Hearst Television|
Transferred by Hearst Corporation to subsidiary Hearst-Argyle Television upon consummation,
now known simply as Hearst Television
|WTVX 34 (20)||N/A5||Paramount Stations Group - 1997||CW network affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|50||Buffalo - Niagara Falls, NY||WNYP-TV 26||1966-1970||New York State Board of Educational Services - 1970s||TCT owned and operated (O&O) as WNYB|
|150||Rochester - Austin - Albert Lea - Mason City, MN/IA||KXLT-TV 47 (26)6||1996-1997||Shockley Communications - 1997||Fox network affiliate owned by SagamoreHill Broadcasting|
Operated by Gray Television through NBC affiliate KTTC under a Shared Services Agreement
- 1 Paxson intended to make WHAI-TV as a PAX network charter or flagship as WIPX, however, the company already operated WPXN-TV and Paxson was not yet allowed to own and operate multiple stations within a single market and chose to keep WPXN and sell WIPX instead.
- 2 Paxson had just purchased WVVI, and was in the process of converting it into a PAX charter O&O as WPXW-TV. As a result, WSIT-LP was sold off to Capital Media in 1999, after the network launched.
- 3 Paxson only operated WOAC, as it already owned WAKC-TV, which also had a stronger signal. Paxson opted to keep WAKC and convert it into a PAX charter O&O as WVPX-TV and sell WOAC to the Shop at Home television network.
- 4 Paxson attempted a license and asset swap with Roberts Broadcasting and ACME Communications, which at the time, split ownership of KZAR-TV (now KUPX-TV), but retained and continued carrying WB network programming until its switch to The CW in 2006.
- 5 WTVX was at the time operated by WPBF. When WPBF was sold to Hearst Corporation in 1997, Viacom through Paramount Stations Group, purchased WTVX, but had to resell the station again to Straightline Communications, since at the time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not permit one entity to directly own two television stations in adjacent markets whose city-grade signals overlapped. WBFS-TV in Miami provided a city-grade signal to West Palm Beach (indeed, for years, WBFS identified as "Miami–Fort Lauderdale–West Palm Beach"), so Paramount could not retain both stations. To solve the problem, Paramount sold the license and other FCC assets of WTVX to Straightline Communications, with WBFS taking control over WTVX through a Local Marketing Agreement. Viacom did reacquire WTVX outright in 2001, after the FCC loosened some of its own ownership restrictions.
- 6 At the time of its acquisition, KXLT-TV was a satellite station of KXLI. Paxson opted to split the two stations, keeping KXLI and selling off KXLT, while eventually converting KXLI into a charter PAX O&O as KPXM-TV.
|AM Station||FM Station|
|Rank||Market||Station||Years Owned||Sold To||Present Day|
|11||Miami - Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood, FL||WIOD 610||1996-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||News/Talk and dual ABC News Radio/Bloomberg Radio affiliate owned by iHeartMedia|
|WINZ 940||1992-1998||Sports talk and Fox Sports Radio affiliate owned by iHeartMedia|
|WFTL 1400||1995-1998||Brazilian Portuguese talk and variety and Nossa Rádio owned and operated (O&O) as WFLL|
|WSRF 1580||1996-1997||Entertainment Radio Systems, Inc. - 1997||French and Haitian Creole talk and variety owned by Niche Radio, Inc.|
|WLVE 93.9||1992-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||All-1990s hits as WMIA-FM owned by iHeartMedia|
|WZTA 94.9||1991-1998||Spanish Top 40 as WZTU owned by iHeartMedia|
Also transmits on W233AP 93.5 FM in Oakland Park
|WPLL 103.5||1996-1998||Urban contemporary as WMIB owned by iHeartMedia|
Also transmits on W288DD 105.5 FM in Tamarac
|WEAT-FM 104.31||1997-1998||Alternative rock as WSFS owned by Audacy, Inc.|
|17||Tampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater, FL||WTKN/WHNZ 570||1991-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Christian talk as WTBN owned by Salem Media Group|
Also simulcasts on WTWD 910 AM in Plant City
|WNZE/WZTM 820||1995-1998||Hybrid dual-format talk and sports and CBS Sports Radio affiliate as WWBA|
owned by Genesis Communications
Also transmits on W244EG 96.7 FM in Tampa and W252DF 98.3 FM in Largo
|WWQT 14702||1970s-?||Unknown - ?||Regional Mexican as WMGG owned by NIA Broadcasting Inc.|
Simulcasts from WTMP-FM 96.1 in Dade City
|WEZY/WSJT 94.13||1993-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Rhythmic contemporary as WLLD owned by Beasley Broadcast Group|
|WKES/WILV 91.1/101.54||1997-1998||Top 40 as WPOI owned by Cox Media Group|
|WHPT 102.55||1991-1998||Hot talk owned by Cox Media Group|
|29||Orlando, FL||WGTO/WWZN/WQTM 540||1994-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Talk radio and Fox News Radio affiliate WFLF owned by iHeartMedia|
Also transmits on W226BT 93.1 FM and W231CT 94.1 FM, both in Orlando
|WWNZ 740||1991-1998||Sports talk and Fox Sports Radio affiliate WYGM owned by iHeartMedia|
Also simulcasts on W245CL 96.9 FM in Deltona and WJRR 101.1 FM (HD2) in Cocoa Beach
|WPRD 1440||1993-1998||Spanish variety owned by J & V Communications, Inc.|
|WDIZ/WSHE 100.3||1996-1998||Spanish assortment of formats: Latin pop, reggaeton and tropical music|
(salsa, merengue and bachata) as WRUM owned by iHeartMedia
|WVRI/WJRR 101.1||1993-1998||Active rock owned by iHeartMedia|
|Press Broadcasting - 1993
Clear Channel Communications - 1998
|Hybrid dual-format hot talk and alternative rock as WTKS-FM owned by iHeartMedia|
|WMGF 107.7||1993-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Adult contemporary owned by iHeartMedia|
|40||Nashville, TN||WPTN 780||1994-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Classic hits owned by Cookeville Communications, LLC|
Also transmits on W291CA 106.1 FM in Cookeville
|WHUB 1400||1996-1998||News, talk and information owned by Cookeville Communications, LLC|
Also transmits on W299BY 107.7 FM in Cookeville
|WGSQ 94.7||1994-1998||Country music owned by Cookeville Communications, LLC|
|WHUB-FM/WGIC 98.5||1996-1998||Top 40 as WKSW owned by Zimmer Broadcasting, LLC|
|46||Jacksonville, FL||WNZS 930||1993-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Spanish News/Talk as WFXJ owned by iHeartMedia|
Also transmits on W247CF 97.3 FM in Orange Park
|WZNZ 1460||Catholic radio as WQOP owned by Relevant Radio|
|WAIA/WPLA 92.7||Urban contemporary as WJBT at 93.3 FM, owned by iHeartMedia|
|WFSJ 97.9||1997-1998||Top 40 as WKSL owned by iHeartMedia|
|WPVJ/WTLK-FM 106.5||1996-1998||Alternative rock as WXXJ owned by Cox Media Group|
|WCRJ-FM/WROO 107.3||1991-1998||Active rock as WWJK owned by iHeartMedia|
|48||West Palm Beach - Boca Raton, FL||WEAT 850||1997-1998||James Crystal Enterprises - 1998||News/Talk and NBC News Radio affiliate WFTL owned by Hubbard Radio|
|WBZT 1230||1995-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Talk and Fox News Radio affiliate WJNO owned by iHeartMedia|
Broadcasting at 1290 AM since 2000
|WOLL 94.3||1997-1998||Spanish adult contemporary as WRLX owned by iHeartMedia|
|WKGR 98.7||1995-1998||Classic rock owned by iHeartMedia|
|WIRK-FM 107.9||1997-1998||Infinity Broadcasting - 1998||Classic hits as WEAT owned by Hubbard Radio|
|60||Rochester, NY||WACK 1420||1962-?||Unknown - ?||Full-service talk and classic hits and SportsMap affiliate owned by Waynco Radio, Inc.|
Also transmits on W245DI 96.9 in Sodus
|123||Pensacola, FL||WTKX-FM 101.5||1996-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Active rock owned by iHeartMedia|
|WOWW-FM/WYCL 107.3||Urban contemporary as WRGV owned by iHeartMedia|
|158||Tallahassee - Thomasville, FL/GA||WNLS 1270||1996-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Classic hip hop as WTLY owned by iHeartMedia|
Also transmits on W243EG 96.5 FM in Tallahassee
|WTNT-FM 94.9||Country music owned by iHeartMedia|
|WTPS/WJZT 100.7||Talk and Fox News Radio affiliate WFLA-FM owned by iHeartMedia|
|WXSR 101.5||Mainstream rock owned by iHeartMedia|
|WSNI 107.1||Top 40 as WGMY owned by iHeartMedia|
|226||Panama City, FL||WDIZ 590||1996-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Defunct, station taken off the air as WDDV and license cancelled in 2020|
|WPAP-FM/WPAP 92.5||Country music owned by iHeartMedia|
Also transmits on W273DU 102.5 FM in Panama City
|WPBH 94.5||News, talk and sports and dual Fox News Radio/Fox Sports Radio affiliate|
WFLF-FM owned by iHeartMedia
|WFSY 98.5||Adult contemporary owned by iHeartMedia|
|WEBZ-FM/WSHF 99.3||Urban adult contemporary as WEBZ owned by iHeartMedia|
|UNR||Key West - Key Largo - Marathon -
Islamorada - Plantation Key, FL
|WKRY 93.7||1996-1998||Clear Channel Communications - 1998||Dance as WKEY-FM owned by Spottswood Partners II, Ltd|
Operated by NRG Media
|WFKZ 103.1||Classic rock owned by Florida Keys Media, LLC|
Also simulcasts on WAIL 99.5 FM in Key West
|WAVK 105.5||Regional Mexican as WWWK owned by Florida Keys Media, LLC|
|Jamestown - Dunkirk - Fredonia - Warren, NY/PA||WXYJ 1340||1966-?||Unknown - ?||Oldies as WKSN owned by Media One Group|
- 1 WEAT-FM (now WSFS) was originally in the West Palm Beach radio market before moving altogether to the Miami market in 2012.
- 2 WWQT would become the predecessor and springboard for what would become the Home Shopping Club, known today as HSN, short for Home Shopping Network.
- 3 WLLD is technically licensed within the Lakeland radio market (ranked 82nd), it is also licensed as serving the Tampa Bay radio market.
- 4 In 1997, in a three way swap, Paxson acquired Lakeland Christian station WCIE 91.1 FM from the Carpenter's Home Church, who in turn swapped the station with WKES, at the time owned by the Moody Bible Institute. WKES would soon move to 91.1 FM; after a brief simulcast period, the WKES call sign would move to 91.1, while 101.5 would become WILV, broadcasting a "Love Songs" format branded as "Love 101.5", in July of that year.
- 5 WHPT is technically licensed within the Sarasota radio market (ranked 70th), it is also licensed as serving the Tampa Bay radio market.
As Ion Media NetworksEdit
In May 2007, Ion, NBC Universal, and Citadel LLC reached an agreement for the recapitalization of Ion. Citadel has acquired the public common stock of the company, as part of the plan to take the company private. In addition, Citadel invested $100 million of new capital into the company to further support management's plan to revitalize the TV network.
In November 2007, Ion Media Networks was taken to trial, having been sued in Federal Court by Positive Ions, Inc for trademark infringement of the use of the word Ion, resulting in a $1.7 million settlement awarded to Positive Ions, Inc.
In 2008, Ion Media Networks and Comcast reached an agreement to not only continue to carry Ion Television, but also introduced two new digital networks Qubo and Ion Life. By January 2009, Ion had another subchannel network, Urban TV, in the works with BET founder Robert L. Johnson targeted to African-Americans.
In April 2009, it was announced that Ion Media Networks was once again facing balance sheet problems. The company disclosed that it was in discussions with lenders on "a comprehensive recapitalization" of its balance sheet. That translates to an effort to restructure its considerable debt, which stands at $2.7 billion as of April 2009, according to The Wall Street Journal.
On May 19, 2009, Ion Media Networks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, putting the Ion network under bankruptcy for the second time, saying it had reached an agreement with holders of 60% of its first lien secured debt that would extinguish all of its $2.7 billion in legacy debt and preferred stock and recapitalize the company with a $150 million new funding commitment. It emerged from bankruptcy in December, under the ownership of its bondholders & secured lenders/first lien holders, wiping out Citadel's ownership.
In late 2009, a trio of private equity companies (Black Diamond Capital Management, Avenue Capital Group, & Trilogy Capital) purchased a 62.5% controlling stake in Ion Media Networks from the Ion Media Liquidating Trust (the legal entity selling the stake) through their partnership, Media Holdco L.P. (43.7% owned by Black Diamond via its BD Ion Media GP Holdings subsidiary; 15.8% by Trilogy via its Trilogy Ion, LLC subsidiary; & 40.5% by Avenue via its Avenue Ion Holdings LP subsidiary). The remaining 37.5% of Ion Media Networks remained with the company's senior investors from previous rounds of financing.
By 2012, Media Holdco's stake in Ion Media Networks was at 87%, with the company's senior investors from previous rounds of financing holding 13%.
Sometime in 2013, Ion Media Networks has inked a deal with Liberty Media to bring the QVC and HSN networks to most of its Ion Television O&O stations throughout the country on digital subchannels X.5 and X.6.
In December 2013, the United States bankruptcy court approved a plan by creditors of Roberts Broadcasting to transfer East St. Louis-based WRBU and its sister stations, WZRB in Columbia, South Carolina and WAZE-LP in Evansville, Indiana, to a trust with Ion Media Networks (a creditor in Roberts' chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, which it filed for in 2011) as its beneficiary, with Roberts' attorney subsequently stating that Ion Media Networks would purchase the three stations. The deal is complete on February 10, 2014, and both WZRB and WRBU became Ion stations.
Also in December 2013, Black Diamond purchased Avenue & Trilogy's stakes in Media Holdco, placing Black Diamond as Media Holdco's sole shareholder.
As of November 2014, Media Holdco's majority equity stake in Ion Media Networks is at 85%, leaving the company's senior investors from previous rounds of financing with a minority stake of 15%.
As Ion MediaEdit
On April 20, 2017, Ion Media Networks, through its website, announced a name change to "Ion Media" (with the company still legally operating as "Ion Media Networks").
On August 2, 2017, it was reported that 21st Century Fox was proposing that Ion Media contribute its stations into a joint venture with its Fox Television Stations division, to create a larger station group in an effort to counter Sinclair Broadcast Group and their proposed purchase of Tribune Media. The proposal also included the possibility for as many as 26 stations owned by Sinclair or Tribune to be switched from Fox after existing affiliation contracts expire. It has been argued that this deal was intended to place pressure on Sinclair to abandon its acquisition, lest it potentially lose Fox affiliations to the venture.
An analyst felt the proposed partnership was hampered by Ion Media's decision to assert must-carry status over its stations rather than retransmission consent, as Fox would be unable to immediately benefit financially from the partnership's scale, which would have included being able to collect carriage payments for all of the stations. The analyst added that Ion stations alone did not have enough leverage to negotiate with television providers, because of their limited local or first-run programming.
On September 24, 2020, Ion Media agreed to be acquired by The E. W. Scripps Company for $2.65 billion, with Berkshire Hathaway making an investment in Scripps to help finance the purchase. The transaction, which is projected to close in the first quarter of 2021 and is subject to FCC approval, would see Ion Media and its networks combined with Scripps' Katz Broadcasting subsidiary, which already operates five specialty networks, most notably Bounce TV and Court TV. Scripps would also sell 23 of Ion Media's 71 television stations to comply with national ownership caps; the buyer, revealed in an October 2020 FCC filing to be Inyo Broadcast Holdings, has promised to maintain the stations' Ion Television affiliations after the purchase. However, the number of stations to be sold increased according to a Public Applications Report from the FCC on October 16, 2020, and although unconfirmed, it is possible that Scripps could still operates at least some of these stations. Whether or not that pans out remains to be seen. As of October 17, 2020, 27 stations are likely up for sale; however, three of those stations in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Minneapolis are predicated and contingent upon whether Scripps can complete its sale of New York City's WPIX to Mission Broadcasting (to be operated by Nexstar Media Group) in time before these transactions are finalized. If WPIX was sold before these transactions, then those stations will be retained. On October 20, broadcast industry website TV News Check confirmed the pending sales in a "station roundup" report outlining the stations slated to be sold, and the number being reduced to 26 again.
That number, again, is cut down to 23, after Scripps was able to complete its sale of WPIX to Mission Broadcasting on December 30, 2020. As such, Scripps would keep its Ion stations in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Minneapolis.
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