David Smith, Sinclair president and CEO, said the main
takeaway from Sinclair's $985 million agreement to acquire Allbritton is the
"strategic significance" of the transaction—very definitely including
Allbritton's NewsChannel 8. The cable channel has 2 million subscribers in the
D.C. area, and Smith—addressing investors July 30—painted a picture of a
vastly expanded national franchise.
"Because Allbritton has limited reach, the channel has yet
to be fully developed outside the D.C. area," Smith said. "We believe we have a
distinct opportunity to accomplish that."
Smith described NewsChannel 8 as a "launching point" for a
national news channel, airing both within the Sinclair group and on MVPD
systems for a "unique hybrid model."
Smith threw out a $300 million figure for incremental
revenue garnered from the MVPDs for carriage, using CNN's 57 cents a sub as a
takeaway is, we believe there is significant value we can unlock when we couple
the cable channel with the rest of our news channels and roll it out to more
than just D.C.," said Smith.
Asked why a Sinclair news channel should get comparable fees to CNN, Smith went into a lengthy takedown of the national cable news nets ("This is gonna shock you," he warned), reciting figures on early a.m. paid programming on his Fox affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, tripling the ratings of Fox News Channel primetime star Bill O'Reilly, with an even wider gap versus CNN's prime. "If a brand is not delivering value, why should it get paid?" he asked.
Smith repeatedly stressed the powerful reach of the broadcast platform. "People really underestimate local television and the value it brings to the marketplace," he said, "versus what the cable news channels bring."