Nexstar Broadcasting Group, a pioneer in extracting cash for retransmission consent from distributors, has hired advisers to explore its strategic opportunities, including a possible sale.
According to a statement issued Thursday morning, Nexstar hired Moelis & Co. as its financial adviser and Kirkland & Ellis as legal counsel "to explore and evaluate strategic alternatives intended to maximize shareholder value, including a possible sale of the company."
The moves comes as Nexstar is embroiled in a battle with News Corp.'s Fox broadcasting network over retransmission consent fees at its Fox affiliated stations.
Nexstar has balked at Fox's demands to split retrans fees from its affiliate stations, which has resulted in it dropping three stations from the Fox lineup - WTVW in Evansville, Ind., WFFT in Fort Wayne, Ind., and KSFX in Springfield, Mo. Nexstar owns, operates or manages about 65 stations in 36 markets across the country, including Salt Lake City; Providence, R.I.; and Rochester, N.Y.
This is the second time that Nexstar has put itself on the auction block. Back in 2007 the station group explored the possibility of a sale, but canceled the auction after the credit markets dried up.
In a research report, Miller Tabak media analyst David Joyce wrote that while margins on retrans fees should decline in the next few years, values of digital spectrum and increased political ad spending should help buoy valuations.