Sinclair to Become Largest TV Station Owner in the Country

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It's a thought that might scare the hell out of some people.

But, when Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. completes three deals announced in the past two months, it will own more television stations across the country than any other company.

The Baltimore area company will operate 134 stations in 69 markets, reaching more than a third of all U.S. homes with televisions. It will have more than doubled in size in about two years, and that's presuming it doesn't broker any more acquisitions.

It still won't own stations in megamarkets such as New York or Los Angeles, but that's part of its strategy. Sinclair's buying spree is aimed at stations in midsize to small markets.

"They're clearly becoming — if they haven't already been — a major industry leader in the local television business," said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters.

While big media companies and broadcasters with stations in large markets reach more people, Sinclair would top companies such as Nexstar Broadcasting Group, CBS Corp. and NBCUniversal Media LLC in the total number of stations owned.

Its stations also would provide a broad spectrum of programming. The plans would boost the number of Sinclair-owned affiliates to 29 Fox, 24 CBS, 19 ABC and 14 NBC stations, as well as smaller numbers of CW, myTV and others.

"We were proud of our diversity," said David B. Amy, Sinclair's chief financial officer, in an interview last week. "But now we are so much more [diverse] than ever. Our efforts have been focused on NBC, ABC and CBS, the big three, and taking the news operations and developing those into a better, competitive element."

The timing is right, Amy said. Owners of stations in small and midsize markets are selling. And Sinclair benefits from a strong balance sheet that enables it to borrow to make the purchases, taking advantage of current low interest rates.

More on the story from the Baltimore Sun