Twenty-First Century Fox in talks with Blackstone to buy Tribune Media

Rupert Murdoch-controlled Twenty-First Century Fox is in talks with private equity firm Blackstone Group on tabling a buyout offer for US television station operator Tribune Media Co, Financial Times reported, citing two people familiar with the negotiations.

The two companies hope to beat a rival offer from Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the largest US broadcaster, the report said.

Fox and Blackstone aim to form a joint venture and table a bid, with Blackstone providing the cash and Fox putting in its own portfolio of TV stations, the report added.

Sinclair's bid would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to relax its rules, which do not allow a broadcaster to hold more than 39 per cent of the market share.

Sinclair currently owns 173 TV stations and has over 38 per cent of the country's market share.

Early this month, the FCC voted to reverse a 2016 decision that limited the number of television stations some broadcasters can buy, but cannot cover more than 39 per cent of US household.

Tribune Media was created in 2014 when the Tribune company split its iconic broadcasting and publishing businesses into two separate companies – one called Tribune Publishing and the other Tribune Media. (See: Tribune to split broadcasting and publishing into two companies)

New York-based Tribune's broadcasting business includes 42 local television stations in 33 markets, WGN Radio, superstation WGN America, Tribune Studios, Tribune Digital Ventures, Tribune Media Services, its equity interests in Classified Ventures, CareerBuilder, and The TV Food Network, and its valuable portfolio of real estate assets.

WGN America reaches approximately 80 million US households, while Tribune Broadcasting reaches over 50 million households in the US.

Tribune, which has a market cap of around $3.2 billion, attracts 60 million monthly unique visitors to Tribune Broadcasting's local websites and apps, according to internal data and Google analytics.