The Department of Justice has approved the $925 million sale of Quincy-based Quincy Media Inc. to Gray Television of Atlanta.
The deal will receive final regulatory approval once Gray divests 10 of the television stations (in seven other markets) it is acquiring from Quincy. WGEM-TV-AM-FM, 513 Hampshire in Quincy, will remain with Gray.
The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed merger. The government asked for an injunction on a deal that would combine the local TV stations in seven markets. It also concurrently filed a proposed final judgment.
According to the complaint, without the divestitures the merger would eliminate head-to-head competition between Gray and Quincy broadcast television stations in seven markets centered in Tucson, Ariz.; Rockford, Ill.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Paducah, Ky.; Eau Claire, Wis.; Madison, Wis.; and Wausau, Wis.
“Without the required divestitures, Gray’s acquisition of Quincy threatens significant competitive harm to cable and satellite TV subscribers and small businesses that advertise on broadcast television,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “I am pleased that we have been able to reach a complete resolution of the department’s concerns, thanks in part to the parties’ commitment to engage in good faith settlement talks from the outset of our investigation.”
Gray seemed to be anticipating this would be necessary to clear the deal with regulators. Gray spun off seven of the stations it acquired from Quincy in an April transaction with Byron Allen.
The combined company likely would charge cable and satellite companies higher retransmission fees to carry its broadcast television stations in those local markets, resulting in higher monthly cable and satellite bills for millions of Americans, according to the DOJ. The merger also would enable the combined company to charge local businesses higher prices to advertise on its broadcast television stations in those local markets.
Quincy Media Inc. earned revenues of approximately $338 million in 2020, according to federal documents. Gray reported revenues of $2.4 billion in 2020.