Sinclair CEO: More Acquisitions Planned

By Merrill Knox 

As we told you yesterday, Sinclair Broadcast Group is paying $373 million for Fisher Communications, the Seattle-based owner of 20 television stations and 3 radio stations. The Seattle Times notes “local media ownership takes a hit” with the merger:

When KOMO-TV owner Fisher Communications becomes part of the much larger Sinclair Broadcast Group of Baltimore this fall, Seattle will lose its last locally owned network television station. It also will lose a corporate name that played a prominent part in the region’s economy for just over a century.

[…] Fisher has about 775 employees nationally and does not disclose how many are at its Seattle headquarters. Asked whether those core employees will keep their jobs, a Fisher spokesman said, “It is premature to speculate about integration planning.”

Sinclair’s hometown newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, reports the company — which will reach 34 percent of the airwaves after the FCC’s approval of the sale — has no plans to stop expanding:

But during a conference call with analysts, [Wells Fargo senior analyst Marci] Ryvicker questioned whether Sinclair’s acquisitions would soon be limited by Federal Communications Commission rules saying a single owner’s group of stations cannot reach more than 39 percent of all TV households.

“Now that [stations] cover 34 percent of the country, how much more can you do?” she asked.

“We can do a lot more,” responded [Sinclair CEO David] Smith, explaining that the percentage of household coverage, as calculated by the FCC, would be far below 34 percent because the FCC counts UHF stations, or Ultra High Frequency, as half of a non-UHF station.

And Broadcasting & Cable looks at Sinclair’s take on Aereo, the streaming television service threatening to disrupt the traditional television model:

Addressing investors following the announcement of Sinclair acquiring the Fisher Communications stations, Smith said there’s “absolutely nothing” proprietary about Aereo’s technology, making its challenge, in his mind, much less threatening.

“If it turns out to be a $10 million business, my guess is the entire broadcast industry would wake up tomorrow and say, we’re going to do that too,” Smith said. “Frankly I have no concern about Aereo whatsoever.”

The Fisher acquisition would give Sinclair a massive 29 Fox affiliates, but Smith was unconcerned about Fox’s statement earlier in the week about the possibility of it going to a cable network. “The notion that they would go to cable means they go to cable through us,” he said. “I think the idea that Fox is going to cable means that the affiliates would go to cable. We’re already on cable — it simply means changing over the air content to cable and satellite content.”