The largest operator of local television stations in the United States is getting even bigger. B&C reports that Sinclair Broadcast Group, which reportedly operates at least 88 stations across the U.S., is buying the Allbritton Television Stations for $985 million.
"The [Allbritton] 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 story reports.
The acquisition is likely to close in the fourth quarter, but requires regulatory approval. The count of stations operated by Sinclair is as high as 140 when pending acquisitions are included.
"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," B&C reports. "Sinclair continues to acquire at an impressive rate, with Allbritton easily being the largest of its string of acquisitions."
As we reported earlier this month, when news broke that Allbritton was up for sale, Sinclair was considered one of the strongest contenders, along with Nexstar. At that time, however, it was thought WJLA might go to a separate buyer, with Disney-ABC the odds-on favorite.
David Smith, Sinclair’s president and CEO, said: "We are thrilled to add the Allbritton properties to our growing portfolio and national footprint. 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."
B&C notes: "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."
Allbritton Chairman and CEO Robert Allbritton added in a release announcing the buyout: "Sinclair is the ideal buyer of our superb television stations. 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."