The Nexstar Broadcasting Group could scuttle Media General’s deal to buy a majority stake in Meredith Corp. through a bid announced today to acquire Media General for $10.50 per share. The transaction, including debt, would value Media General at $4.1 billion. The offer comes three weeks after Media General announced it was buying a 65 percent stake in Meredith Corp. for $2.4 billion. According to those two companies, the deal will create the third-largest owner of network affiliates, with 88 stations in 54 markets. Meredith CEO Stephen Lacy is in line to lead the combined entity. The Nexstar bid, delivered to Media General as a letter, describes the Meredith deal as “ill-conceived” and contends that a Nexstar/Media General merger would offer even bigger scale—162 stations in 99 markets versus 82 stations in 54 markets.
Meredith Corporation’s (NYSE: MDP) Southern Living reports that its December issue ad revenue is up 51% from last year, its monthly year-to-date audience across digital, print and online has averaged 25.5 million, up 2% from 2019 (AAM, Sept. 2020) and its website experienced its highest trafficked November in its history with nearly 19 million visits, up 23% year over year. The December issue, on newsstands now, marks the 25th year of the brand’s popular annual holiday white cake cover and feature story.
Continuing to advance the brand’s momentum, Southern Living will introduce enhanced paper stock, along with a refreshed design, beginning with the January/February 2021 issue. A new front-of-book section called “In Season” will debut to reflect readers’ passionate interest in seasonal moments, experiences and celebrations, and a range of new columns will roll out in various issues throughout the year covering topics ranging from home and cooking to travel and beauty.
Doug Olson, President of Meredith Magazines, said, “Southern Living’s success underscores the brand’s resonance with people across the South and beyond. The brand’s rich heritage coupled with its modern take on the Southern lifestyle continues to appeal to marketers seeking the right environment to reach engaged consumers across the country. With our investment in improved paper, we’re excited to provide an even better reader experience.”
Sid Evans, Editor in Chief, said, “This year has given us all a different perspective on what’s important, and it pushed us to rethink our content, add some new columns, and make the magazine even more immersive. We’re always looking for new ways to inspire our readers, and we wanted to start 2021 with something vibrant, energetic, and fresh. Our goal is to celebrate the best of the modern South, and this redesign delivers on that promise.”
Southern Living’s presence across social media has grown significantly. The brand’s audience across platforms is up 14% year over year (7,097,722 social fans/followers in October 2020 versus 6,241,746 total fans/followers in October 2019) with notable increases coming from TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest. Southern Living debuted on TikTok earlier this year and now has a following of more than 300,000 with 5 million likes based on its popular videos on subjects ranging from how to deep fry deviled eggs to holiday décor DIY tips.
Deirdre Finnegan, VP/Group Publisher of Southern Living, said, “The vitality of this brand is a testament to the strong connection it has with its audience, nationally and across platforms, from the recent launch on TikTok to the iconic monthly magazine which reaches more than 15 million readers—many of whom live outside of the South. I’m looking forward to more success as Southern Living continues to evolve in 2021.”
The brand has also expanded in other areas. Southern Living’s Biscuits & Jam podcast, launched last spring, has proved so popular that it was quickly renewed for a second season that’s currently underway. The podcast, hosted by Sid Evans, has featured guests such as Dolly Parton, Gladys Knight, Darius Rucker, Willie Nelson, Lauren Alaina, Mickey Guyton, Jake Owen and many more. On broadcast television, The Southern Living Show which debuted across Meredith TV stations earlier this year on a weekly schedule, will air with greater frequency during December, offering viewers more opportunities to enjoy its holiday programming.