Sinclair Broadcast Group has agreed to buy the Allbritton TV stations for $985 million. The stations consist of seven ABC Network affiliates, covering 4.9% of the U.S. TV households, and NewsChannel 8, a 24-hour cable news network covering the Washington metropolitan area that Sinclair may expand to other markets. Lucrative, and influential, WJLA Washington is also in the group.
The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
To comply with FCC ownership rules, Sinclair expects to sell the license and certain related assets of its stations in Birmingham, Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, and Charleston, and to provide services to each of these stations.
Sinclair continues to acquire at an impressive rate, with Allbritton easily being the largest of its string of acquisitions.
"We are thrilled to add the Allbritton properties to our growing portfolio and national footprint," commented David Smith, president and CEO of Sinclair. "To buy a full-blown news operation in our nation's capital and an infrastructure that allows us to be connected to our branches of government and be at the pulse of national issues is a once-in-a lifetime event. We are especially excited to acquire the NewsChannel 8 local news channel, not only for the content it can provide our existing news stations, but moreover because their regional cable presence provides the perfect platform should we decide to expand it into other markets, especially given the amount of local news we produce across our entire portfolio."
Sinclair's stock price climbed to over $31 when the market opened July 29, after closing out the week of July 22-26 at $29.50. In a report, Wells Fargo Securities said it views the deal "as an exceptional transaction that could bring significant synergies to SBGI over time."
Besides the Washington properties, the Allbritton stations include: WCFT-WJSU-WBMA Birmingham-Tuscaloosa-Anniston, WHTM Harrisburg, KATV Little Rock, KTUL Tulsa, WSET Lynchburg and WCIV Charleston.
Robert Allbritton, chairman and CEO of Allbritton, praised Sinclair in its announcement. "Sinclair is the ideal buyer of our superb television stations," he said. "Its existing reach and history of innovation matches exceptionally well with our long tradition of viewer service and news gathering excellence. David Smith and his team have been a pleasure to work with. I am confident that their leadership and resources will enable our stations to reach new heights of service to our communities."