Media giant 21st Century Fox is in talks with the private equity firm Blackstone to launch a joint bid for Tribune Media, The Financial Times reported Sunday.
According to two people familiar with the negotiations, the two companies hope to beat a rival offer from Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the largest U.S. broadcaster.
Fox and Blackstone plan to form a joint venture for the acquisition, with Blackstone providing the cash and Fox putting in its own portfolio of stations.
Sinclair reportedly approached Tribune about a possible consolidation deal last winter, Reuters has reported, but that deal would require a relaxation of current Federal Communications Commission rules. The FCC allows a media company to own multiple TV stations, as long as its market share doesn’t exceed 39% nationwide.
Sinclair, headquartered in Baltimore, owns 173 stations and other properties such as the Tennis Channel and, according to TVNewsCheck.com, reaches more than 38% of the nation.
New York-headquartered Tribune has 42 stations and WGN, and reaches more than 43% of the nation. The FCC in 2013 gave it an exemption to buy 19 stations from Local TV LLC.
Media observers expect regulations on media ownership to lessen under the Trump administration and an FCC led by Republican Chairman Ajit Pai.
A Fox spokesman declined to comment on the report, while Tribune did not immediately reply to USA TODAY requests for comment.
Contributing: Mike Snider