Pat LaPlatney

Raycom Media CEO Pat LaPlatney. Provided/Raycom Media 

The company that owns the Charleston region's longest-running television station is being sold in a deal that extends the consolidation of the broadcasting business.

WCSC-TV parent Raycom Media Inc. announced a $3.6 billion tie-up Monday with Gray Television Inc. that would create the third-largest TV broadcast group in the country.

Gray, which is headquartered in Atlanta, is the buyer. 

The two companies said their combined TV operations will be made up of more than 140 stations in 92 markets and about $2 billion in annual sales. They projected about $80 million in cost savings and financial benefits by eliminating overlapping expenses while adding revenue in certain areas. 

The cash-and-stock sale is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.  

Raycom CEO Pat LaPlatney will become president and co-chief executive officer of Gray. He also will join the company's board of directors.

“Together, we will be a stronger, more impactful force for our audiences, advertisers and communities," LaPlatney said in a written statement.

Broadcasters like Gray and larger rival Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. have been bulking up partly to gain negotiating leverage over cable and satellite TV providers, which are required to pay station owners for the rights to carry network programming.

Elsewhere in South Carolina, Montgomery, Ala.-based Raycom owns NBC affiliates WIS-TV in Columbia and WMBF-TV in Myrtle Beach. The company's Fox station in Augusta, which serves the Aiken area, will be sold because it operates in the same market as a Gray-owned outlet.

Raycom acquired West Ashley-based WCSC-TV from Lincoln Financial Group in 2008 for an undisclosed amount.

The local CBS affiliate began broadcasting from offices on East Bay Street on the peninsula on June 19, 1953, using call letters that stand for "Wonderful Charleston South Carolina." It is the longest continuously operating TV station in the state.

Privately held Raycom is financed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, which manages state employee pension funds.

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott