Cox Enterprises, parent of cable operator Cox Communications, said it is “exploring strategic options” for its 14 broadcast television stations currently under the Cox Media Group umbrella, including partnering or merging the properties into a larger entity.
"We didn't take this decision lightly. It is clear that scale is critical for TV affiliates to be positioned well for the future. Our stations are some of the best in the industry and we want them to stay that way," said Cox Enterprises CEO Alex Taylor in a statement.
The 14 stations are located in nine states and reach more than 31 million viewers, Cox said. The company added it is not considering divesting other part of its portfolio, which include newspapers and 61 radio stations.
"Cox's television stations are and will always be an important part of our company's history, and we greatly value the contributions of these stations to the success of our company and to the communities where we do business," said Cox Enterprises chairman Jim Kennedy in a statement. "We are deeply appreciative of the employees at these stations and their dedication to delivering quality, consistent and trustworthy journalism."
Cox’s decision comes as Sinclair Broadcast Group is facing major government resistance to its planned merger with Tribune Media. Possible buyers of the Cox properties include Meredith Corp., which agreed to purchase Time Inc. in November, and Gray TV, which agreed to buy Raycom in June for $3.6 billion but would still have room to add stations under the federal ownership cap. Private equity firms also could be in the hunt -- earlier this month, Apollo Global Management reportedly approached Nexstar about a possible buyout, which helped boost the broadcaster's stock.
The Cox Media stations are located in nine states and include markets like Atlanta; Boston; Seattle; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Tulsa, Okla.; Dayton, Ohio; Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla., Memphis, Tenn.; and Charlotte, N.C. The stations include affiliates of NBC, ABC, Telemundo, CBS and Fox.