Apr 28, 2017

Sinclair Broadcasting expands its footprint


Sinclair Broadcasting Group has been expanding its conservative profile with a series of hires and acquisitions in the last few years, and at an accelerated pace since Trump has come to power.

Timing is everything: These new hires and acquisitions around the U.S. come at an optimal time to snatch up conservative audiences; TheBlaze and Fox News just let go of their star anchors, Tomi Lahren and Bill O'Reilly, through a series of highly visible controversies.

Conservative context: Sinclair's management has always been right-leaning — over the years the company and its executives have contributed financially to Republican candidates, offered up primarily conservative think tank perspectives, and aired segments that have given Democrats some pause.

  • Swing state TV: In a $985 million 2013 deal Sinclair acquired eight TV stations. That includes six TV stations in swing states, like Pennsylvania and Virginia, as well as traditionally conservative states, like Alabama, Arkansas, and South Carolina. Notably, Sinclair also bought out two D.C.-based local stations, WJLA and NewsChannel 8, giving it a foothold in the beltway.
  • Another conservative link: Sinclair signed on to distribute a TV show from conservative site DailyMail.com earlier this year, which will debut this fall. The TV show will reach 105 markets, or 66% of the U.S., per FT.
  • Tribune Media Co.: Just last week people familiar with the matter said Sinclair Broadcasting Group is gunning to snap up Tribune Media Co., which would extend Sinclair's reach with TV markets in New York, Chicago, and Miami. That would add 42 additional TV stations and WGN America cable network. The FCC just made this consolidation pitch a little easier by voting Thursday to reduce the limits on broadcast ownerships. Sinclair is aiming to finalize the deal by early May.
  • The Trump connection: In 2016 Sinclair forged a deal with Trump's campaign to broadcast his interviews around the country without commentary in exchange for more access to Trump, per Politico. Jared Kushner saw an opportunity with Sinclair, citing its higher reach in swing states, like Ohio, over other networks, like CNN.
  • Two hires: Trump's former communications aide, Boris Epshteyn, who left the Trump team last month, took a job last week with Sinclair as a political analyst and will now appear on Sinclair's 173 television stations. Sharyl Attkisson worked for CBS for over 20 years, and in 2014 after she called out liberal media for not airing stories on the 2012 Benghazi attack and the slow pace of Obamacare enrollment, Sinclair snatched her up to host an investigative journalism show in 2015.

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