Sinclair Buying NewsChannel 8 in D.C.

Says It Could Expand Cable Presence into Other Markets
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As part of Sinclair's just-announced $985 million purchase of Allbritton media properties, the Baltimore-based broadcaster will also get regional cable news channel NewsChannel 8, the 24-hour news channel that services the Washington market in concert with Allbritton's WJLA there, which Sinclair is buying.

The broadcaster signaled it might try to extend its cable news presence, with NewsChannel 8 as the anchor.

"We are especially excited to acquire the NewsChannel 8 local news channel," Sinclair President and CEO said in announcing the planned purchase of Allrbitton's seven ABC affiliates and the cable channel. "[N]ot 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."  

For its $985 million, Sinclair will also receive seven Allbritton stations, all of which are ABC Network affiliates, covering 4.9% of the U.S. TV households. The lucrative and influential WJLA Washington is the brightest of Allbritton's station assets.

Sinclair will have a lot of resources to tap if it does expand its cable footprint. According to the company, which has been on a bit of a buying binge of late, when the Allbritton deal closes it will own and/or operate, program, or supply sales services to 149 TV stations in 76 markets reaching 38.2%--21.9% for purposes of the 39% FCC ownership cap due to the UHF discount (UHF's only count for 50% of the coverage, even though UHF's are now the more desirable service since the switch to digital. Those stations include affiliates of all networks --33 FOX, 27 ABC, 25 CBS, 23 CW, 20 MNT,14 NBC, 5 Univision, one Azteca and one independent.

Sinclair will have to sell four stations in Alabama, Pennsylvania and South Carolina to comply with FCC local ownership caps, but says it will continue to provide services to those through joint agreements. Those agreements have been raising concerns among cable operators who complaint of coordinated retrans negotiations they say inflate prices and run afoul, or at least should run afoul, of FCC rules.