Eureka Television Group Apparently Sold to National Conglomerate

Hank Sims / Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 @ 3:08 p.m.

Few things are more cryptic than the weird, shadowy world of the broadcast business, but this much we think we can say: Eureka Television Group — owner of the local Fox, Univision, MyTV and ThisTV affiliates — has sold all its assets to the national Bonten Media Group and associated companies, which already own KAEF-TV, the local ABC affiliate.

The news comes as half a surprise to Eureka Television Group employees.

“I honestly don’t know. There are rumors flying around, but I just don’t know,” said Dave Silverbrand, general manager of the Eureka Television Group-linked CBS affiliate, KVIQ-TV, when the LoCO reached him this morning. “The more I ask the less I know.”

But that was before Silverbrand had seen the attached press release from a Tucson media consultancy announcing Bonten’s acquisition of Eureka Television parent Sainte Partners’ Humboldt County- and Redding-area assets.

The press release lays out the basic lines of the deal in some detail, but unless you have an advanced degree in the twisty business practices of broadcast media conglomerates, things get weird fast. (Personally, I received a crash course seven years ago, when I reported on Eureka Television’s own bizarre corporate contortions.)

Technically, Fox29 — by far the most popular of Eureka Television’s stations — will be bought by Bonten’s corporate BFF, “Esteem Broadcasting.” Bonten can’t acquire the station directly, because it can’t own two high-power television stations in the same small market, and it already has KAEF. So Esteem will “own” the station and Bonten will run it, and Bonten will also own the various other low-power stations belonging to Eureka Television (Univision, etc.).

Meanwhile, what happens to Silverbrand’s station, KVIQ? Though part of the “Eureka Broadcasting Group,” it is not technically part of the deal because it is not technically owned by Sainte Partners. In order to acquire the CBS affiliate back in 2005, Sainte has to pull precisely the move that Bonten is pulling now: It turned to a, uh, “friendly” corporation called “Raul Broadcasting,” which bought the station and turned over ownership to Sainte.

No one — least of all its general manager — knows what’s up with KVIQ during this deal. If there is a revelatory needle in the continent-sized haystack of FCC public disclosure forms, neither I nor Silverbrand nor anyone else I’ve contacted has been able to find it.

For the time being, though, it looks like our tiny commercial television market is moving from three major owners down to two, with KVIQ still hanging out there like a question mark. In the meanwhile, if you feel that you can take any consolation in Bonten CEO Randy Bongarten’s statement on the acquisition, then more power to you:

“We are pleased to be working once again with Esteem Broadcasting. … This arrangement will enable us to enhance the quality and number of news alternatives the viewers of these markets will enjoy.”

Does that mean that Bonten is going to give another TV news operation, one that could compete with KIEM? I am holding my breath.

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