Missoula media landscape continues shift with sale of KECI

By Missoula Current

A national media conglomerate with a conservative bent said Friday it has purchased the parent company of KECI, the NBC television station in Missoula.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is based on the East Coast, said it has entered into an agreement to purchase the stock of Bonten Media Group Holdings for $240 million.

“We look forward to welcoming the Bonten employees into the Sinclair family and are pleased to be growing our regional presence in several states where we already operate,” Chris Ripley, president and CEO of Sinclair, said in a statement.

The company owns and operates – or provides service – to 173 television stations in 81 markets.

“We believe our economies of scale help us bring improvements to small market stations, including investments in news, other quality local programming and multicast opportunities with our emerging networks of Comet, Charge! and TBD,” Ripley said.

The purchase represents the second shakeup in Missoula’s media landscape in the last two weeks. Lee Enterprises, parent company of the Missoulian, announced last week that it had purchased the left-leaning Missoula Independent, a weekly newspaper.

As for Sinclair, it has forged a reputation for its conservative-pointed coverage. In 2004, it banned its stations from airing an episode of Nightline. Just last week, it said Boris Epshteyn, who served as President Donald Trump’s spokesman, would serve as its new top political analyst.

Sinclair announced the deal a day after the FCC relaxed broadcast ownership rules, a move expected to pave the way for television industry consolidation.

The deal includes Bonten’s 14 television stations, which are based in eight markets including Montana. Those stations include KECI in Missoula, KCFW in Kalispell, and KTVM in Butte.