Could Sinclair-Tribune Deal Spawn A Fox News Competitor?

May 8, 2017

Could Sinclair Broadcast Group's $3.9 billion purchase of the Tribune Media Co. help the Maryland-based media giant launch a competitor to Fox News?

The Los Angeles Times and CNN said Monday that the "conservative leaning" Sinclair group – which owns or operates 139 stations, including WKRC-TV, WSTR-TV, WKEF-TV and WRGT-TV in Cincinnati and Dayton – could do just that after agreeing to pay $3.9 billion, plus assume $2.7 million in debt, for Tribune's 42 TV stations in 33 TV markets.

The Los Angeles Times says Sinclair, "known for injecting a conservative slant into the local news that airs on its TV stations… could leverage the cable and satellite retransmission deals for its TV stations to get carriage of a potential new news channel that could skew politically to the right of Fox News. Sinclair has used its TV stations to launch the Sunday morning public affairs program 'Full Measure With Sharyl Attkisson.' Attkisson is a former CBS News correspondent who claimed the government hacked her computer after her aggressive reporting on the Obama administration."

CNN reported Monday that Sinclair "could try to launch a rival to Fox News, though the company has not commented on the possibility."

With Tribune, Sinclair finally gets stations in the three biggest TV markets: KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, WPIX-TV in New York and WGN-TV in Chicago.

Sinclair also acquired Tribune's WGN America cable network; the Antenna TV and This TV over-the-air digital networks; 31 percent of the Food Network; 32 percent ownership of the CareerBuilder website; and Chicago radio station WGN-AM. Tribune Media also produces Robert Irvine's afternoon talk show for the CW. Tribune had produced Bill Cunningham's daytime talk show (2011-2016) for the CW.

The deal did not include the former Tribune newspapers. The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times in 2014 were separated into a new company, called Tronc.

The sale is pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission. Since President Donald Trump took office in January, the FCC has reversed a 2016 decision limiting the number of TV stations some broadcasters can buy, which some experts say will prompt more media mergers.