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. It formerly owned Ion Plus and 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 Corporation
This section needs additional citations for verification. (July 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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, 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.
As Ion Media Networks
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%.
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 Media
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.
- "Ion Media Television, Inc.: Private Company Information - Businessweek". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
- "Company Overview of Ion Media Entertainment, Inc". Bloomberg Businessweek. Businessweek.com. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- "Moody's affirms Ion Media's B1 CFR and B1 rating on first lien debt". moodys.com. Moody's Investors Service. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
- "Changing Hands" (PDF). Broadcasting & Cable. April 11, 1994. Retrieved March 3, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Elber, Lynn (August 30, 1998). "PAX TV: New Network Promises x Family Fare". Williamson Daily News. Retrieved October 15, 2012 – via Google News.
- Carter, Bill (September 17, 1999). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; NBC Completes Acquisition Of 32% Stake in Paxson". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Carter, Bill (December 5, 2001). "Paxson Communications Moves To Bar NBC Bid for Telemundo". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Paxson loses arbitration against NBC". South Florida Business Journal. September 23, 2002. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Carter, Bill (November 14, 2003). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; NBC Moves To Break Up Relationship With Paxson". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Londner, Robin (November 13, 2003). "NBC asks Paxson for $549.2M". South Florida Business Journal. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Carter, Bill (August 23, 2004). "MEDIA; NBC Universal And Paxson: An Odd Dance To a Divorce". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Carter, Bill (November 8, 2005). "Deal Brings an End to NBC-Paxson Feud". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Bud Paxson departs Paxson, NBC may buy out or sell out". South Florida Business Journal. November 7, 2005. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Name change: Paxson becomes Ion Media Networks". South Florida Business Journal. February 28, 2006. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Paxson Has Ion Aspirations". Broadcasting & Cable. Reed Business Information. February 28, 2006. Retrieved February 28, 2006.
- "Ion Media Networks, Citadel, and NBC Universal Reach Agreement to recapitalize Ion -- Ion expected to become privately held following transaction". Reuters. May 4, 2007. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Kouwe, Zachery (May 4, 2007). "Ion APPROVES NBC SALE AMID UNREST". New York Post. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Federal Judge to Decide Whether Ion Television Can Continue as Ion , Positive Ions v. Ion Media Networks.
- Judgment Entered Against Ion Media Networks, Inc. in Dispute Over "Ion" Trademark Registration, Positive Ions v. Ion Media Networks.
- Ion Media Plugs In New Comcast Accord, Multichannel News, January 14, 2008
- Romano, Allison (January 19, 2009). "Cutting Bait On Subchannels". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
- Ion Files for Bankruptcy Protection, Multichannel News, May 20, 2009
- Ion Media Emerges From Bankruptcy, Leveraged Finance News.
- "S&P rates Media Holco". reuters.com. Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- TVBR, RBR-. "New backers DIP into Ion". rbr.com. Radio + Television Business Report. Retrieved September 14, 2009.
- TVBR, RBR-. "Big markets, but big problems". rbr.com. Radio + Television Business Report. Retrieved September 15, 2009.
- "Ion Media Networks Inks Multi-Affiliate Deals for Diginets". Telecommunications Weekly. May 26, 2010. Archived from the original on June 11, 2014. Retrieved February 22, 2014 – via HighBeam Research.
- "Moody's assigns Media Holdco (Ion) B1 CFR and B2 term loan rating; outlook is stable". moodys.com. Moody's Investors Service. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Mueller, Angela (December 11, 2013). "Judge approves creditors' proposal in Roberts Broadcasting bankruptcy". St. Louis Business Journal. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
- Brown, Lisa (December 11, 2013). "Roberts' TV stations to be sold". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
- Wright, Natalie. "Ion Media readies $795M dividend recap loan". reuters.com. Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
- "ION MEDIA PLEASED WITH FAVORABLE FCC ACTION TO REI..." ION Media. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
- Sakoui, Anousha (August 2, 2017). "Fox in Talks With Ion Media to Operate Local TV Stations, Source Says". Bloomberg. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
- Lieberman, David (August 3, 2017). "Sinclair Broadcast Shares Slip On Report That Fox May Switch Affiliations To Ion". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
- "Analyst: Ion's Must-Carry Kills Potential Fox Deal". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
- "Analyst Expects Ion to Choose Must-Carry". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
- "ION Media Sweetens Offer to 21st Century Fox for Local-TV Station Venture". The Street.
- Cimilluca, Dana. "E.W. Scripps Agrees to Buy ION Media for $2.65 billion in Berkshire-Backed Deal". Retrieved September 24, 2020.
- "Scripps creates national television networks business with acquisition of ION Media," press release from Scripps.com, September 24, 2020
- E.W. Scripps Co (SSP) SEC Filing 8-K Material Event for the period ending Wednesday, September 23, 2020 on Last10K.com (accessed 10/15/2020)
- Ellis, Jon (October 14, 2020). "Scripps May Divest Minneapolis Station as Part of ION Purchase". NorthPine.com. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
- "PUBLIC NOTICE: REPORT #29845" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission (PDF). October 16, 2020. pp. 1–6. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
- "Station Trading Roundup: 2 Deals, $45,450,000". TV News Check. October 20, 2020. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
- Jacobson, Adam (December 16, 2020). "Ion/Scripps' Fourth Amendment: TV Trio Not Going To INYO". Radio & Television Business Report. Streamline Publishing, Inc. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
- Wethington, Kari (December 30, 2020). "Scripps Completes Sale of WPIX". Scripps. The E.W. Scripps Company. Retrieved December 30, 2020.