Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said Wednesday it will purchase KSNV-TV, Channel 3, Las Vegas’ NBC-affiliated station, from Intermountain West Communications Co. for $120 million.
If regulators approve the purchase, the deal should close in the first quarter of 2015.
Sinclair now owns two other stations in Las Vegas, KVCW-TV, (CW, Channel 33) and KVMY-TV (MyNet, Channel 21.1), and will have to sell one of them to comply with Federal Communications Commission regulations. Whichever station is sold, Sinclair intends to keep the channel’s programming to use on the remaining two stations.
Sinclair also bought Reno’s KRNV-TV last fall for $26 million.
KSNV-TV, Channel 3, and KRNV-TV were owned by Jim Rogers, who died June 14. Rogers’ group’s holding company, Valley Broadcasting Co., bought the station in 1979 from Donrey Media Group, today Stephens Media Group, which owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It adopted the call sign KVBC in 1979 and kept that call sign until 2010.
In 2013, Rogers and KSNV-TV made waves when they gave some of their entertainment shows — two of the most coveted properties in syndication, “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” — to KLAS-TV, Channel 8, as part of a decision to concentrate on local news.
The station also sent the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” to KVCW-TV, Channel 33, and shuffled its daytime lineup.
Rogers felt that to survive, more local news had to be a priority. Producing local news is also cheaper than licensing syndicated programs.
In the months following the programming changes, KSNV’s ratings at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., when the game shows once aired, plunged 60 percent and 62 percent. Simultaneously, “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” boosted KLAS’ 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. ratings by 130 percent and 175 percent, respectively
Before Rogers’ death, the station planned to relinquish “Dr. Phil” to KLAS next fall and planned to get rid of “Rachael Ray” and “The Doctors” when their contracts expire in fall 2016. That would have cleared the path for 11½ hours of local news each weekday.
But a local journalism professor thinks that strategy might have gone too far.
“They may have to dial it back,” said Mary Hausch, a journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I think there’s been an overreach at Channel 3 on news.”
Hausch, a veteran journalist who teaches advanced reporting and media ethics, said KSNV had a proud local heritage under Rogers.
“I always hate to see corporate ownership as opposed to local ownership.”
But she said, “Sometimes when the big boys come into the market, it elevates things.”
Sinclair is one of the largest broadcasting companies in the United States, operating 164 television stations in 79 markets, including every big city in Nevada. If pending deals go through, the company will be able to reach 38.2 percent of U.S. households.
And the changes may extend beyond the valley’s TV screens.
Rogers was vocal about local politics and was an avid philanthropist. He also spent five years as chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, stepping down in 2004.
Beverly Rogers took ownership of the station after her husband’s death, and she told the trade magazine Broadcasting &Cable that about 80 percent to 85 percent of the proceeds from the sale will go to setting up The Rogers Educational Foundation in Southern Nevada.
Sinclair’s politics, on the other hand, have given some cause for concern.
State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, wrote on Twitter early Wednesday morning that “nearly all sinclair broadcasting contributions are to republicans (sic), if they join forces with sheldon adelson watch out las vegas.”