Sinclair plans to take Washington’s NewsChannel 8 national

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Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the new owners of Washington D.C. cable channel NewsChannel 8, wants to air the channel across the country.

A screen capture from a NewsChannel 8 broadcast when it was known as "TBD TV." (Allbritton/Sinclair)

A screen capture from a NewsChannel 8 broadcast when it was known as “TBD TV.” (Allbritton/Sinclair)

NewsChannel 8, the 24-hour cable news companion to Washington’s ABC affiliate WJLA, was recently acquired by Sinclair for $985 million when the company agreed to purchase it and a half-dozen other TV stations from Allbritton Communications.

Under Allbritton’s ownership, NewsChannel 8 briefly served as an on-air supplement to the company’s experimental hyperlocal news website TBD.com. The channel was rebranded as “TBD TV” in August 2010 before reverting to its old brand when TBD.com closed in August 2012.

Sinclair wants to expand NewsChannel 8’s reach beyond the 2 million homes where it is currently available on cable. Sinclair sees potential for having a new national 24-hour news channel based in Washington, D.C.

“The channel has yet to be fully developed outside the D.C. area,” Sinclair CEO David Smith told the publication Broadcasting & Cable. “We believe we have a distinct opportunity to change that.”

Smith offered few details about what a national NewsChannel 8 would look like but hinted that it may be a hybrid news network repackaging local television news stories aired on Sinclair-owned channels along with original stories produced in-house (Belo, which was purchased weeks ago by Gannett, has a similar product called Texas Cable News).

Smith said the plan is to have the channel carried on digital subchannels of Sinclair-owned TV stations as well as nationally on cable and satellite systems.

“People really underestimate local television (news) and the value it brings to the marketplace,” Smith told B&C.

Smith told B&C he expected to charge cable and satellite operators 57 cents per subscriber to carry a channel that has yet to launch. By comparison, CNN currently charges cable and satellite companies about the same.