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Sinclair reports first-quarter earnings down 10 percent

Sinclair Broadcast Group headquarters in Hunt Valley.
Sinclair Broadcast Group headquarters in Hunt Valley.(Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said Wednesday its first-quarter profits slipped 10 percent to $24.3 million on reduced political and Super Bowl advertising.

But its earnings per share of 25 cents for the January-to-March quarter, down from 27 cents a year earlier, beat Wall Street estimates of 12 cents.

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Shares of Sinclair closed at $29.97, down 35 cents Wednesday.

The Hunt Valley-based TV station owner said its overall revenue jumped to $505 million in the latest quarter, up from $413 million in 2014's first quarter, reflecting its acquisitions of more stations and strength in core advertising categories.

The company, which has affiliations with all major networks and reaches households in 79 markets, also is getting a revenue boost from so-called "retransmission fees." Cable and satellite TV providers pay broadcasters those fees to include their signals in channel lineups. Revenue beat analysts' estimates of $503.67 million.

Sinclair garnered only $1.7 million in ad revenue from this year's Super Bowl compared to $8.2 million last year as the game switched to NBC from Fox. Sinclair owns 31 Fox stations but only 19 NBC stations.

Political advertising also skidded to $2.2 million from $6.1 million in an election off-year.

Looking forward, "recently, we announced several initiatives expected to add longer-term value and growth opportunities," said David Smith, Sinclair president and CEO, in the company's announcement.

Those initiatives include the March launch of Sinclair Digital Ventures, a division that will invest in emerging digital technologies and digital content companies. And the broadcaster has reached a multi-year deal with the Atlantic 10 Conference to televise at least 52 events for seven sports on Sinclair's American Sports Network, which is in its first year of operation.

"We are also excited about Fox's potential given the success of the hit show 'Empire' and its impact on our Fox affiliates when it returns in the fall," said David Amy, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

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