Ion Media Networks
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2012)|
|Founded||West Palm Beach, Florida (1991 as Paxson Communications)|
|Headquarters||West Palm Beach, Florida|
|Key people||R. Brandon Burgess - Chairman & CEO|
|Revenue||US$276.6 million (2004)|
|Owner(s)||Black Diamond Capital
(Ion Media Networks's three largest bondholders)
Ion Media Networks, Inc. (formerly known as Paxson Communications Corporation) is an American television broadcasting company that owns and operates over 60 television stations in most major American markets. It is now a privately owned company.
The company was founded in 1984 by Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson in Florida. The company purchased radio stations and a couple television stations, eventually becoming Florida's largest radio group. The radio stations ranged from rock to contemporary hit radio to adult contemporary to news and talk. The television stations were network affiliates of ABC and NBC. In 1993 the company began to purchase stations on the outer fringes of large television markets. These stations would air ValueVision shopping, infomercials, and religious programs.
The company divested itself of both the radio group and major-network affiliated television stations in 1998, focusing on building its own independent TV network, "PAX TV". The company focused on acquiring UHF television stations. Some of these stations are out-of-market stations, such as WPXD in Ann Arbor, Michigan (45 miles from Detroit), KXLI in St. Cloud, Minnesota (60 miles from Minneapolis), WTLK in Rome, Georgia (45 miles from Atlanta), WPXJ in Pavilion, New York (45 Miles From Both Buffalo, New York and Rochester, New York) and WAYK in Melbourne, Florida (60 miles from Orlando). Still in some markets the company bought low rated stations that had the same type of signals as established stations with medium to high ratings. These stations included WCFC in Chicago (religious), WTGI in Wilmington, Delaware (brokered), WAKC in Akron, Ohio (Cleveland's secondary ABC affiliate),and channel 35 in Miami (Shopping), among others. In the fall of 1997 a tentative lineup was announced and it included a family entertainment lineup of drama shows, movies, first run shows, wildlife shows, sitcoms, and talk shows. The most expensive station acquisition was WBIS in New York City. The city government had sold this station to Dow Jones and ITT in 1996 for nearly $200 million. In January 1997 Dow Jones launched a business format called S+ during the day and a sports channel after 7 pm and on weekends. Dow Jones/ITT lost money on the operation, sold the station for about $225 million in May 1997, and shut down S+ that June in favor of Bloomberg Business News, Fox Sports Net and a block previewing new networks, IntroTV. Channel 31 was renamed WPXN with plans to be the flagship station of PAX TV in the fall of 1998.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the company wanted to buy WPCB, channel 40, from Cornerstone Television, and move the license to channel 16 (which was, and still is, occupied by WINP-TV), with channel 40 used for educational purposes. The two agreed on a purchase price, but the Federal Communications Commission had too many questions about the deal, most relating to the type of broadcast license to be operated on each channel, and it fell through.
The PAX network was launched in 1998 with family dramas such as Life Goes On, Touched by an Angel, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Highway to Heaven, and Bonanza, a game show titled The Reel to Reel Picture Show, sitcoms Dave's World, Here's Lucy and The Hogan Family, and some movies. The network ran weekdays from noon until 1 am. Morning shows consisted of infomercials and other local shows. Overnights, PAX TV ran the Worship Network. Due to low ratings and mounting financial costs, PAX TV soon reduced its hours. In 1999, they were reduced to between 3 pm and midnight, and in 2002, they were reduced again to 6 pm to midnight.
In September 1999, NBC bought a 32% stake in Paxson. On December 4, 2001 it was announced that Paxson had filed with the FCC an arbitration to block NBC's acquisition of Telemundo. In September 2002, it was announced that Paxson's arbitration against NBC was denied. On November 13, 2003 NBC requested a redemption of its investment in Paxson of $549.2 million. In August 2004, NBC Universal filed a lawsuit against Paxson. In November 7, 2005, to settle several lawsuits between the company and NBC Universal, Lowell Paxson granted NBCU an 18-month transferrable option to purchase his shares of the company in an agreement which, if activated, would also trigger a sale of the rest of the company. If Mr. Paxson's shares of the company weren't sold in the option window, the company was obligated to buy them back from Mr. Paxson. Concurrent with this deal, Mr. Paxson left the company, and was succeeded by R. Brandon Burgess in the role of President and CEO.
In May 2007, Ion Media Networks, NBC Universal and Citadel LLC reached an agreement for the recapitalization of Ion. Citadel has acquired the public common stock of the company, as part of the plan to take the company private. In addition, Citadel invested $100 million of new capital into the company to further support management's plan to revitalize the TV network.
In November 2007, Ion Media Networks was taken to trial, having been sued in Federal Court by Positive Ions, Inc for trademark infringement of the use of the word ion, resulting in a $1.7 million settlement awarded to Positive Ions, Inc.
In April 2009, it was announced that Ion was once again facing balance sheet problems. The company disclosed that it was in discussions with lenders on "a comprehensive recapitalization" of its balance sheet. That translates to an effort to restructure its considerable debt, which stands at $2.7 billion as of April 2009, according to the Wall Street Journal.
On May 19, 2009, Ion Media Networks filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, putting the Ion network under bankruptcy for the second time, saying it had reached an agreement with holders of 60% of its first lien secured debt that would extinguish all of its $2.7 billion in legacy debt and preferred stock and recapitalize the company with a $150 million new funding commitment. It emerged from bankruptcy in December, under the ownership of its bondholders & secured lenders/first lien holders, wiping out Citadel's ownership.
- List of stations owned and operated by Ion Media Networks
- Ion Television
- List of Ion Television affiliates
- Hamerman, Joshua. "ION Media Emerges From Bankruptcy". Leveraged Finance News. Source Media. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
- Elber, Lynn (August 30, 1998). "PAX TV: New Network Promises Clean Family Fare". Williamson Daily News. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Carter, Bill (September 17, 1999). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; NBC Completes Acquisition Of 32% Stake in Paxson". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Carter, Bill (December 5, 2001). "Paxson Communications Moves To Bar NBC Bid for Telemundo". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Paxson loses arbitration against NBC". South Florida Business Journal. September 23, 2002. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Carter, Bill (November 14, 2003). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; NBC Moves To Break Up Relationship With Paxson". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Londner, Robin (November 13, 2003). "NBC asks Paxson for $549.2M". South Florida Business Journal. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Carter, Bill (August 23, 2004). "MEDIA; NBC Universal And Paxson: An Odd Dance To a Divorce". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Carter, Bill (November 8, 2005). "Deal Brings an End to NBC-Paxson Feud". New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Bud Paxson departs Paxson, NBC may buy out or sell out". South Florida Business Journal. November 7, 2005. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Name change: Paxson becomes Ion Media Networks". South Florida Business Journal. February 28, 2006. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- "Paxson Has Ion Aspirations". Broadcasting & Cable. February 28, 2006. Retrieved February 28, 2006.
- "ION Media Networks, Citadel, and NBC Universal Reach Agreement to recapitalize ION -- ION expected to become privately held following transaction". Reuters. May 4, 2007. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Kouwe, Zachery (May 4, 2007). "ION APPROVES NBC SALE AMID UNREST". New York Post. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
- Ion Media Plugs In New Comcast Accord, MultiChannel News, January 14, 2008
- Federal Judge to Decide Whether Ion Television Can Continue as Ion , Positive Ions v. Ion Media Networks.
- Judgment Entered Against Ion Media Networks, Inc. in Dispute Over "iON" Trademark Registration, Positive Ions v. Ion Media Networks.
- Ion Files for Bankruptcy Protection, Multichannel News, May 20, 2009
- Ion Media Emerges From Bankruptcy, Leveraged Finance News.