The Hill Is Sold to a TV Giant

The local television behemoth Nexstar Media Group announced Friday that it had acquired The Hill, a Beltway political news website, for $130 million.

Nexstar, the largest operator of local TV stations in the country, said in a news release that the deal would expand its digital reach and coverage of political news. The deal also unites two companies that have sought, with mixed results, to present themselves as neutral arbiters in a partisan moment.

“I like to say that we’re as far to the left as the right will go and as far to the right as the left will go,” Jimmy Finkelstein, who took a controlling stake in The Hill in 2014, said in an interview. Nexstar, he added, is “very much interested in that fit — they’re very balanced.”

Nexstar, based in Irving, Texas, became the country’s largest local TV operator when it acquired Tribune Media in 2018 in a $4.1 billion deal, gaining 42 television stations and a cable network. It now has 199 stations across the United States, including NewsNation, a cable outlet based in Chicago that the company envisions as a competitor to Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

NewsNation, previously named WGN America, had been positioned by Nexstar at its debut last year as a just-the-facts news channel. But the news director and managing editor of its prime-time news block, also called “NewsNation,” resigned soon after it was revealed that Bill Shine, the former Fox News co-president, had come aboard as an adviser. Journalists on staff complained about what they saw as a rightward tilt.

Latest Updates

Tom Carter, the president and chief operating officer of Nexstar, said in a statement, “The Hill has a nationally recognized brand known for delivering balanced political reporting, as well as authentic opinions and perspectives, and is highly complementary to Nexstar’s national cable news network, NewsNation.”

In an email to staff on Friday, Nexstar executives said they saw “tremendous synergies” between The Hill, which has more than 100 journalists, and NewsNation, as well as its local TV news stations. The executives added that the deal would make Nexstar “the fourth largest digital news property in the United States, ahead of Fox, ABC, CBS, The New York Times and BuzzFeed.”

Mr. Finkelstein, the heir to a New York real estate fortune and a longtime associate of former President Donald J. Trump, said that he had purchased control of The Hill in 2014, when it was primarily a print publication that covered Congress, at a fraction of the valuation he sold for. He said he had not always enjoyed the attempts by Mr. Trump and another old New York associate, the Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, to pressure him for favorable coverage.

In an email to The Hill’s staff on Friday, Mr. Finkelstein wrote that The Hill was “highly profitable,” with profit and revenue increasing at a rate of 50 percent a year. He called the site “one of the very few truly fair publications publishing accurate information down the middle.” Mr. Finkelstein said in the note that he would move on to “new ventures.”

Over the last decade The Hill has sought to attract readers interested in political news without carving out a partisan editorial voice — a challenge at a time of political polarization. It is best known for fast aggregation and a steady stream of links from The Drudge Report. The site also launched an online morning show, “Rising,” in 2018, which succeeded by featuring right-wing and left-wing populist hosts. During the 2020 presidential campaign, a columnist for the publication, John Solomon, played a central role in Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to link Joseph R. Biden to corruption in Ukraine, prompting an internal investigation by The Hill.

The sale comes after the news that German media company Axel Springer has held talks with two other news organizations based in Washington, Politico and Axios.

Source: Read Full Article