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Quincy Jones-Led Group Forming TV Joint Venture : Entertainment: Deal with Tribune Co. may create largest minority-controlled broadcasting company.

November 16, 1994|JOHN LIPPMAN and JANE HALL | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Entertainment executive Quincy Jones, businessman and former Hall of Fame pro football player Willie D. Davis and other partners are expected to announce today that they are entering into a joint venture with Tribune Broadcasting to form what could become the largest minority-controlled broadcasting company in the country.

The creation of the Jones-Tribune group, which will seek to buy TV stations in major markets, is the latest in a string of repercussions from Fox Television's unexpected move earlier this year to snatch away eight station affiliates from rival CBS.

It also comes as established broadcasters are increasingly partnering with minority-controlled firms in order to extend their reach beyond current Federal Communications Commission caps on station ownership.

Unlike some other such ventures, however, Jones and his partners will own a majority interest in the venture. Other partners are said to include talk show host Geraldo Rivera and "Soul Train" producer and host Don Cornelius.

Financial details were not available, but Daily Variety reported that the new venture could eventually invest up to $500 million.

One of the first stations the group is said to be purchasing is WATL-TV in Atlanta, currently owned and operated by Fox. The Fox station would then become an affiliate of fifth network WB Network, which Warner Bros. is launching in January.

Tribune, the Chicago-based media company that also owns KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, will have a role in launching the WB Network and has an option to purchase a stake in it. In addition, Jones is expected to fold his WNOL-TV in New Orleans into the new company.

Only last month, Fox Television Stations, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., said it would invest up to $20 million to help form a black-owned station group. The new company, to be named Blackstar Communications, will buy TV stations and then convert them to Fox affiliates. Under current FCC regulations, a company is allowed to own 12 TV stations reaching 25% of the country, but minority-controlled broadcasters are allowed to own 14 outlets.

ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as the fourth network, Fox, and the two upstart networks planned by Warner Bros. and Chris-Craft/Paramount, are looking for ways to lock up long-term affiliation agreements in the wake of the current upheaval in broadcasting.

The shuffle among some of the country's biggest TV stations began last winter after Fox raided key CBS affiliates, triggering a domino effect of affiliation changes.

Thus, in order to secure long-term affiliation contracts, the networks and network-affiliated station groups are investing directly in TV stations. The frenzy in station trading, however, has also pushed up the prices for TV stations, which had been depressed for several years.

Jones, a musician and longtime hit record producer, has strong ties to Warner Bros. and parent company Time Warner Inc., which is a backer of his Quincy Jones Entertainment. He is also the executive producer of the NBC sitcom "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Davis, a former all-pro defensive end for the Green Bay Packers, is owner and president of All Pro Broadcasting Inc., a radio station group.

Separately, Renaissance Communications Corp. said Tuesday that it will buy KDAF-TV in Dallas from Fox TV Stations Inc. for $100 million, while selling KDVR-TV to Fox for $70 million. The purchase-and-swap deal is subject to FCC approval.

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