Nexstar Media has acquired Washington-based media site The Hill for $130 million. As part of the sale, The Hill owner Jimmy Finkelstein is stepping down as company chairman.
The Hill employs just over 100 journalists. Nexstar, a much larger operation, says it “counts 5,500 journalists producing over 275,000 hours of local and national news annually.” Nextstar is the home to cable news network NewsNation.
“I’m very emotional about it,” Finkelstein told TheWrap. “I believe in brands. What I’ve done in my whole life is buy and build those brands, and I’m looking forward to do it again.”
Finkelstein said he will remain in the media industry and explore new ventures. He has been chairman and owner since 2012, after he succeeded his father Jerry Finkelstein when he died. The publication was founded in 1994.
The Hill had 48 million monthly active users (MAUs) and 2.2 billion total page views in 2020, according to comScore, as well as more than four million followers and 914 million video views on Twitter. Nexstar itself boasted an average of 91 million MAUs in 2020, according to comScore, when it amassed 7.8 billion page views.
“The accretive acquisition of The Hill’s independent, political digital media platform marks continued progress with Nexstar’s ‘content-first strategy’ and reflects our organization-wide commitment to deliver trusted, unbiased, fact-based journalism that engages and informs our audiences across all screens and devices,” Nexstar President and COO Tom Carter said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “The Hill has a nationally recognized brand known for delivering balanced political reporting, as well as authentic opinions and perspectives, and is highly complementary to Nexstar’s national cable news network, NewsNation.”
“The Hill acquisition presents the company with a fast-growing and profitable political digital news platform. Jimmy Finkelstein, owner and chairman of The Hill, has done a truly excellent job in creating a national brand with strong profitability,” he continued.
Last year, Finkelstein was reportedly shopping around for potential investors and buyers. At the time, people familiar with the discussion said the asking price for The Hill was $100 million, with another source saying he wanted closer to $300 million.
With Nexstar’s acquisition, Finkelstein said he is very optimistic about the future of the business and digital media, pointing to the success and profitability of videos and subscriptions.
“There’s a tremendous desire to read news,” he said in an interview. “People want to read a certain way and they want it quickly and often. I have an optimistic view of what’s of happening.”
And increasingly more publications that are not specializing in politics have ramped up political coverage. In this way, The Hill is well-positioned at the “center of the world,” Finkelstein said. “Publications like Vanity Fair have political commentators, and there are dozens of examples like that. Everything is intertwined today.”
This is Carter’s second digital transaction of that “content-first” strategy. This one follows the December 2020 acquisition of BestReviews.
He had more to say in an internal memo. Read Finkelstein’s note to staff below.
Today The Hill has been sold to Nexstar Media Group, Inc. which is America’s largest local television company.
We have done this with mixed feelings. First, I realize with a heavy heart that it is time for me to move on to new ventures. Those will be known in the next several months. Yet at the same time I recognize with great pride all we have accomplished together and are about to produce.
Only a few years ago The Hill was a print publication struggling to survive. Today The Hill is the largest independent political media outlet – a digital juggernaut. The Hill is the most viewed independent media outlet in the country about government and politics. We are respected, liked, sometimes even feared by the most powerful in the land.
We are highly profitable with profits increasing 50 percent a year and with revenues increasing a like amount.
More importantly, we are one of the very few truly fair publications publishing accurate information down the middle. We also produce the most interesting opinions on all sides on all major issues of the day. Our events are considered best-in-class and we have one of the great political shows each morning with more shows to come.
Nexstar wishes to increase The Hill’s efforts and I am sure it will be an exciting time.
Having met many of the executives at the company including Chairman Perry Sook, President and Chief Operating Officer, Tom Carter and Karen Brophy, President, Digital, I have no doubt that Nexstar will be a great home for The Hill.
Separately you will be receiving a notice of a company wide meeting with Perry.
I know you will not miss my emails at all hours or my phone calls throughout the day. But I will miss sending and making them.
I will also miss the incredible talent and the many friendships I have here. With that, let me say it was an honor successfully producing one of the great news products in the country. And it was an honor working with all of you.