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ION Media Networks (formerly known as Paxson Communications) 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.

History

The company was founded in 1984 by Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson in Floridamarker. The company purchased radio stations and a couple television stations, eventually becoming Florida's largest radio group. The radio stations ranged from rock to CHR 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 WBSX in Ann Arbor, Michiganmarker (45 miles from Detroit), KXLI in St. Cloud, Minnesotamarker (60 miles from Minneapolis), WTLK in Rome, Georgiamarker (45 miles from Atlanta), WPXJ in Pavilion New York (45 Miles From Both Buffalo, New Yorkmarker and Rochester, New Yorkmarker) and WAYK in Melbourne, Floridamarker (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 Chicagomarker (religious), WTGI in Wilmington, Delawaremarker (brokered), WAKC in Akron, Ohiomarker (Cleveland's secondary ABC affiliate),and channel 35 in Miamimarker (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, Pennsylvaniamarker, the company wanted to buy WPCBmarker, channel 40, from Cornerstone Television, and move the license to channel 16 (which was, and still is, occupied by WQEXmarker), 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 like 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 November 2005, to settle several lawsuits between the company and NBC Universal (NBCU), 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 aren't sold in the option window, the company is 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 2006, the company adopted its current name "ION Media Networks, Inc".

In May 2007, ION Media Networks, NBC Universal and Citadel Investment Group 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.

ION Media Networks and Comcast have reached an agreement to not only continue to carry ION Television, but also to introduce two new digital networks qubo and ION Life. The network also carries the Worship Channel on a digital subchannel.

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.

In April of 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.

See also



References



Sources

  1. ION Media Networks, Citadel and NBC Universal Reach Agreement to Recapitalize ION, Yahoo!, May 4, 2007
  2. ION Media Plugs In New Comcast Accord, MultiChannel News, January 14, 2008
  3. Ion Files for Bankruptcy Protection, MultiChannel News, May 20, 2009



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