The consolidation of the television industry continued Monday with Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group striking a $985-million deal to acquire Allbritton Communications, owner of seven television stations.
For Sinclair, this is the second major acquisition it has made in this year. In April, it bought Fisher Communications Inc., owner of 20 television stations, for $373 million.
Allbritton's biggest assets are WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., and NewsChannel 8, an all-news cable station serving the nation's capital. For Sinclair, which owns scores of stations in medium and smaller markets, the Allbritton purchase gives it a presence in one of the biggest markets in the country.
"To buy a full-blown news operation in our nation's capital and an infrastructure that allows us to be connected to our branches of government and be at the pulse of national issues is a once-in-a lifetime event," said David Smith, chief executive of Sinclair Broadcast Group.
The Sinclair-Allbritton sale is the latest in a slew of big deals in the local television station business. Earlier this month, Tribune Co., the parent of the Los Angeles Times, bought Local TV Holdings, owner of 19 television stations, for $2.7 billion. Last month, Gannett Co. acquired 20 television stations owned by Belo Corp. in a purchase valued at $2.2 billion.
By getting bigger, Sinclair Broadcast Group will have more leverage both with advertisers and cable and satellite operators that will need to pay fees to carry its stations. Sinclair also will be in a better position to negotiate with programmers for content.
Media watchdogs, however, fear that fewer owners mean less choice for viewers in terms of news content and diversity of opinions.
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