When all of its dealing is done, Sinclair Broadcast Group will be pushing the national TV household reach cap of 39%, giving it a very solid national footprint. And it hopes to use that base to grow one of its newest acquisitions – cable service NewsChannel 8 in Washington DC, part of its deal with Allbritton Communications.
The company has drawn the attention of public interest watchdogs, Free Press in particular, but as media broker Larry Patrick told the Washington Post, everything it has done is perfectly legal. That includes concerns in some quarters of its tendency to support Republicans and conservative causes; and its use of shared service agreements and joint sales agreements to operate more than one station in many of its markets.
The FCC has also said it is reviewing the 50% discount applied to UHF stations when calculating national cap compliance. For example, in a market with 1 million TV households, the full amount would be added to a VHF station’s reach sum; but only 500 thousand would be added to that of a UHF station.
The switch to digital broadcasting has turned the relative value of VHF and UHF stations on its head, and the discount no longer makes sense. However, if the FCC does eliminate it, Sinclair’s current station portfolio would likely be grandfathered. Such a move would, however, hamper any opportunities for future growth via the acquisition route.
NewsChannel 8 is a 24 hour operation, and Sinclair is interested in seeing if it can leverage its content with that of its local television holdings and create a much broader cable news footprint as a competitor with CNN, Fox and other basic cable newsers.