Sinclair’s head man says the company has its sights set on Fox News Channel and MSNBC with its cable news initiative, centered on the Washington, D.C.-based 24-hour network NewsChannel 8.
TVNewsCheck reports that Sinclair President and CEO David Smith touted his company’s news operation during an earnings call this morning.
Said Smith: “Just looking at ratings for the past year, NewsChannel 8 at 6 a.m. has a higher number of people watching it than CNN, CNBC and Headline News combined.”
He added: “Here’s a local cable news channel that’s been in business for 20 years or so, with no capital behind it — they didn’t really need it — that does better than those other networks combined.”
Smith said he’s eager to challenge Fox News Channel and MSNBC in the markets covered by NewsChannel 8, which was a key component of Sinclair’s recent acquisition of Allbritton. The news operation shares its facilities with Washington ABC affiliate WJLA-TV.
Smith indicated that a new chapter for NewsChannel 8 begins today. “We’re going over today to meet the staff,” he said. “It’s a new business for us starting today. It’s a bit early to tell you where our longer-term plans are.”
Smith hinted at the company’s plans in an interview with TVNewsCheck just over a year ago, saying: “We’re looking at NewsChannel 8 as an opportunity for the broadcast industry to create something that’s never been created at the local level.”
He added then that he envisioned “a unique hybrid model that focuses not only on national and international news, which traditionally has lower ratings than local news, but also provides a unique, customized local presence in our markets and the markets of other broadcasters with which we may partner in the future.”
The report notes: “Sinclair is doing something similar on the sports side with its recent launch of American Sports Network. ASN has signed contracts with a number of second-tier NCAA Division I conferences, including Conference USA, the Colonial Athletic Association, Big South Conference, Southern Conference and Patriot League.”
Smith also commented today on another initiative, ATSC 3.0. “Smith said Sinclair is working on a plan to transition to the new standard that costs virtually nothing and is transparent to the public,” the story reports. “Sinclair in May launched ONE Media LLC, a joint venture between Sinclair and Coherent Logix, to create a next-generation platform that would to enable broadcasters to be competitive on all platforms.”
In response to a question about potential regulatory obstacles, Smith said: “I don’t necessarily think there’s going to be serious friction in that area. We’re working on a plan whereby we can effect the transition to a new standard and not affect the public. I think we have a reasonable solution that, oddly enough, ends up costing nothing.”