Sinclair boss eases on national plans for NewsChannel 8

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The logo of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

The logo of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s chief executive officer conceded on a conference call Wednesday that he was a bit too ambitious when he discussed plans to transform Allbrittton’s local cable station NewsChannel 8 into a national news service.

David Smith told Broadcasting & Cable last week that Sinclair saw an opportunity to develop NewsChannel 8 outside of the Washington, D.C. area, hinting that a national Sinclair news offering would air a hybrid of local news packages from Sinclair’s local TV stations as well as original stories produced in-house.

Sinclair expects to acquire NewsChannel 8 along with a half-dozen over-the-air stations owned by Allbritton under a $985 million deal expected to close by the end of the year.

On a conference call with investors Wednesday morning, Smith said that there had been “way too much noise about (NewsChannel 8)…and what we intend to do with it.”

“If and when we close on the Allbritton transaction, we’re being handed an asset that’s completely undeveloped,” Smith said, adding that the process of distributing out the channel would be “no more complicated than taking a television show and distributing it across the country.”

Smith walked back suggestions that NewsChannel 8 would transform into a cable news channel, again suggesting that a hybrid local-national
service was much more likely.

“The notion that we would want to go build a CNN that nobody watches doesn’t make any sense to us,” Smith said Wednesday.

Last week, Smith said if Sinclair developed NewsChannel 8 for a national audience, it would charge about the same as what CNN charges (about 57 cents per subscriber).

Sinclair’s stock has closed down nearly every day July 29 when the company announced its intention to buy the Allbritton stations.

TVNewsCheck: Sinclair clarifies plans for NewsChannel 8
Broadcasting & Cable: Sinclair plans national rollout for NewsChannel 8