WLEX

EPI Group's TV stations include NBC affiliate WLEX-TV (above) in Lexington Ky. Provided

The parent company of The Post and Courier is putting its television stations on the market, citing the steady consolidation of the broadcasting industry.

Charleston-based EPI Group LLC said it has hired the New York investment bank Methuselah Advisors to seek out potential buyers for the 15 network affiliates. None of the stations is in South Carolina.

“The decision has been difficult at best,” EPI Group chief executive officer John Barnwell said in a statement to employees.

The company began diversifying into the TV industry in 1974, when it was primarily a newspaper publisher. It now owns stations in 11 small and mid-size markets in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana and Montana. They employ about 800 full-time workers.

Barnwell said it’s a “prudent time” to test the market for potential purchasers because "our TV stations and our employee base will be better-served being part of a larger group."

“It’s a period of consolidation, and scale matters in our business,” he said Friday. “Those two things are driving the decision."

One of the latest consolidation deals involves Charleston’s longest-running station. In June, WCSC-TV owner Raycom Media agreed to be sold to Atlanta-based Gray Television in a $3.6 billion deal that would create the nation's third-largest broadcaster.

By bulking up, buyers are hoping in part to gain negotiating leverage over cable and satellite TV companies, which are required to pay station owners for the rights to carry network programming.

EPI Group's broadcasting business is run by Cordilerra Communications, which is headquartered in St. Paul, Minn. Fourteen of its stations are split evenly between NBC and CBS affiliates. The other is an ABC carrier. Combined, they reach about 2.3 million households, according to Cordillera.

Barnwell said EPI Group is under no pressure to sell, but the board of directors and management felt it was an appropriate time to start exploring their alternatives.

If a sale materializes, some of the proceeds would likely be distributed to shareholders of the privately held company, Barnwell said. The rest would be reinvested.

“We would plan to leave a significant amount of money in the company to march forward,” he said.

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