The challenge is "just getting people to tune in with so many choices," Malone said. "How do you get someone to sit and watch 30 minutes of a news channel if it's not a known brand?"

The most challenging aspect, though, may be securing distribution on cable networks, said Merrill Brown, a founder of MSNBC.com and director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

"Cable channels want to be paid as opposed to paying" a subscriber fee, Brown said. "News channels are buying their way on. It's hard to believe [Sinclair] would be in a position to invest hundred of millions of dollars in buying carriage."

Malone agreed that "getting the carriers on board will be tough negotiations."

But Sinclair could find a way, Gomery said, especially if the cable channel is primarily local in focus. Federal Communication Commission rules stipulate that local stations must be carried by local cable companies, he explained.

The Allbritton acquisition, which requires FCC approval, is expected to close in the fourth quarter. It is Sinclair's fifth deal announced this year, putting the company on track for a total of $1.9 billion in acquisitions, adding 54 stations to its roster. Sinclair also said last week it is hunting for more properties.

Ryvicker, for one, believes the company's size and reach to more than 38 percent of the nation's households will allow it to move ahead with the cable channel plans. The broadcaster will own or operate 147 stations in 76 markets after all pending deals are finalized.

"While it might take time to engage in carriage discussions [with cable system operators such as Comcast] and collect fees, we would not underestimate SBGI's 'clout' with 38 percent coverage" of U.S. households with televisions, Ryvicker said in a report Wednesday.

Ryvicker said she did not expect the channel to be a significant investment of millions of dollars.

"It's hard to bet against Sinclair," Malone said. "They've very committed and they love the business. They said they would grow, and they did."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com