WVUE-TV, which is owned by New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson, will be entering into a "shared services agreement" with Raycom Media
, which owns a chain of 53 TV stations across the southeastern and eastern United States. Terms of the deal — which Raycom is calling a "join hands" agreement — were not disclosed, but Raycom will provide "operational services" of station management for Benson's Louisiana Media Company (LMC).
According to general manager Joe Cook, who is also president of LMC, Benson will retain "100 percent" of the station. "We remain locally owned," he said this afternoon.
The deal will go into effect Dec. 16, at which time Raycom will oversee "all departments" of WVUE, Cook said, including appointing a new general manager. Cook will transition into a position with LMC and be "less involved day to day" with the station, he said. "What they’ll be a need for is the president of the company to be one of the LMC employees working for the best interest of Tom Benson."
Asked about possible employee reductions under Raycom, Cook said, "There have been absolutely no discussions about newsroom reductions, and anyone who says that is misinformed."
Raycom has been said to be interested in purchasing WVUE outright. In early October, an internal newsletter produced by Raycom's pension fund controller reported the sale of WVUE to Raycom with extreme specificity — including a dollar amount — a report which WVUE hotly denied. Nevertheless, "strategizing" with Raycom had been going on for two years, Cook said today.
Cook said the deal will provide partnerships that will provide "connectivity of the entire footprint of the two professional teams owned by Tom Benson." In Louisiana, Raycom owns stations in Lake Charles, Shreveport and Baton Rouge, as well as other stations in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle. "This was a no-brainer to develop some kind of relationship with stations all over those areas," Cook said.
Benson bought WVUE from Emmis Communications in 2008 for $41 million. Terms of the agreement between Benson and Raycom are not known.
Full press release under the jump.
New Orleans, La. (November 20, 2013) – WVUE Fox 8 Owner Tom Benson has announced that Louisiana Media Company has reached agreement in principle on the terms of a Shared Services Agreement with Raycom Media that allows the New Orleans-based television station to remain locally-owned, and expands its regional opportunities.
This agreement will allow Louisiana Media Company to "join hands" with the strongest regional television group in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, Raycom Media. The shared services agreement between WVUE Fox 8 and Raycom Media will permit Raycom Media to provide operational services for the station, under the ultimate control of Louisiana Media.
This new relationship will connect WVUE Fox 8 with some of the most dominant stations and their newsrooms in the area serving the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans, also owned by Benson.
"We are excited to expand in such a creative way, while maintaining our local ownership. This collaboration allows both companies to become stronger in the region right away," said Benson. "The personnel we have locally have worked incredibly hard to grow WVUE Fox 8 in the right direction. We're looking forward to seeing the continued results of those efforts as we partner with Raycom Media. The synergy between what we have already established at WVUE Fox 8 and what Raycom Media can offer will be positive for both of us and our viewers."
Paul McTear, President and CEO of Raycom Media stated, "Like WVUE, Raycom is committed to quality journalism and serving our communities. We're excited about this partnership which provides more depth and resources in covering issues of importance to the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. Raycom has served viewers in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Shreveport, and Biloxi for years. The addition of New Orleans strengthens and reinforces our commitment to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast."
"In an ever changing industry where larger scale gives strength to individual stations, this arrangement allows our station to immediately benefit from Raycom's scale and strong regional presence," said Joe Cook, President of Louisiana Media Company, and General Manager of WVUE Fox 8."
The Agreement is expected to become effective on December 16.
Raycom, an employee-owned company, is one of the nation's largest broadcasters and owns and/or provides services for 53 television stations in 36 markets and 18 states. Raycom stations cover 12.6% of U.S. television households and employ nearly 3,800 individuals in full and part-time positions. In addition to television stations, Raycom owns Raycom Sports (a marketing, production and events management and distribution company in Charlotte, NC) and Tupelo-Honey Productions (a Sports and Entertainment Production company based in New York), as well as Broadview Media (a post production/digital signage company based in Montgomery). Raycom is also responsible for the design and hosting of Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail website. Raycom owns regional cable and syndication television, and digital media rights to Atlantic Coast Conference Athletics.