Sinclair plans to buy eight TV stations in Pa., Fla. for $90 million

Hunt Valley-based Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said Wednesday that it plans to buy eight television stations from New Age Media for $90 million, continuing a string of recent station acquisitions.

The stations are spread throughout three markets, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa., Tallahassee, Fla., and Gainesville, Fla., and give the broadcaster a mix of FOX, MyNetwork, CW, CBS and NBC affiliates.

"We are excited to be adding the New Age stations to our portfolio, growing our presence in Pennsylvania and Florida, and further diversifying our affiliation mix," CEO David Smith said in the company's announcement. "Through each acquisition we continue to capture operating efficiencies and scale, as well as increase our cash flow for ongoing opportunities."

The company has said it will continue to look for chances to grow through acquisitions. Sinclair announced plans in July to purchase Allbritton Communications Co.'s seven ABC affiliates and a local cable news network for nearly $1 billion. Since April, the company has announced the acquisition of 35 additional stations, bringing the total number of acquired stations or planned acquisitions to 91 in two years.

Finalizing the planned deals would make Sinclair the largest broadcaster in the country and extend its reach to well over a third of all TV-viewing households. Sinclair also would become the largest broadcaster of ABC, CBS, Fox and MyTV programming.

The sale to New Age is subject to Federal Communications Commission approval and slated to close and fund in the last three months of the year or the first quarter of next year. Sinclair will fund the purchase through cash or a draw on the company's bank credit agreement.

"We think this is yet another solid, accretive deal that fits SBGI's strategy of gaining scale," Marci Ryvicker, a senior analyst for Wells Fargo Securities, said in a research note issued Wednesday. "All of the acquired stations are in the political swing states of Pennsylvania and Florida, both of which typically generate substantial political revenue."

To comply with FCC rules governing the number of local stations a company can own, Sinclair expects to sell the licenses and some assets of three of its stations in each one of those markets to Cunningham Broadcasting Corp. The company also plans a sale of another Tallahassee property to Deerfield Media Inc.

Sinclair will own, operate or provide programming or sales services to 162 television stations in 77 markets once the New Age acquisition is completed, reaching nearly 39 percent of U.S. households with televisions.

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