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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the massive local conservative broadcaster that's been criticized for pushing Pro-Trump talking points, has been hiring a slew of ex-mainstream news anchors as it pushes into national news coverage. It's also reportedly in the running to buy up a handful of Fox's regional sports networks.

Why it matters: Sinclair's hiring spree suggests that it's looking to position itself as a national news competitor to Fox News ahead of the 2020 election, and as an overall competitor to big broadcasters with its foray into sports coverage.

Flashback: This wasn't always the plan. The company's efforts to push into national news and regional sports comes after an embarrassing defeat in its attempt to expand its local news empire.

  • Tribune broke off a major deal with Sinclair after the company was accused of lying to the FCC about deal terms and being less than transparent with Tribune's Board.
  • Sinclair's failed bid meant that it couldn't acquire Tribune's national cable network, WGN.

Yes, but: Sinclair is not going to let its failed merger with Tribune hold it back from expanding into a national news and sports powerhouse.

Sinclair's latest push into national news includes hiring several big-name newscasters, presumably to populate its local news channels with syndicated program, as well as to provide content for its new ad-free streaming network, STIRR.

  • Lara Logan: Sinclair has hired former CBS News anchor Lara Logan for a three-month job as a special correspondent focusing on the U.S.-Mexico border, per The Hollywood Reporter.
  • Eric Bolling: The network earlier this month hired former Fox News anchor Eric Bolling from CRTV for a one-hour show called “America This Week," per The Washington Post. Bolling left Fox in 2018 over a sexual misconduct controversy.
  • James Rosen: The company hired veteran Fox News journalist in January as an investigative reporter, after he was ousted from Fox News abruptly last year.
  • Sebastian Gorka: Sinclair hired former Fox News contributor last year. Gorka said he officially exited Fox as a contributor last month, in part because of his role with Sinclair.

On the sports side, Sinclair has emerged as the front-runner to buy a package of regional sports networks being sold by Walt Disney Company following a bid of around $10 billion, per Fox Business Network. The deal, if approved, would give Sinclair access to live sports telecasts.

The big picture: Sinclair's STIRR will boost its efforts to expand beyond local news. That streaming service will add sports, entertainment and lifestyle content, giving Sinclair an opportunity to tap into the budgets of national advertisers.

Be smart: Regulatory analysts, while bearish on Sinclair's efforts to expand into local news, are much more optimistic that the DOJ will approve the regional sports networks transaction. (Sinclair wouldn't need FCC approval, as these are cable stations.)

“I think this deal should be OK with regulators. Sinclair is a hot button company but they’re not expanding their news operations, which is what really fired up Democrats in the Tribune deal.”
— Paul Gallant, an analyst with Cowen Washington Research Group

Go deeper

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Kaine, Collins pitch Senate colleagues on censuring Trump

Sen. Tim Kaine speaks with Sen. Susan Collins. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine and Susan Collins are privately pitching their colleagues on a bipartisan resolution censuring former President Trump, three sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction in his second impeachment.