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Sinclair Broadcast will cut 5% of workforce, including at Baltimore-based headquarters

Sinclair Broadcast Group said Wednesday that it plans to cut nearly 600 jobs companywide, including at its Hunt Valley headquarters, because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The layoffs represent 5% of Sinclair’s workforce.

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“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt across all sectors of the economy, something that can have a profound impact on a company as diversified as ours,” the company said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun.

The health crisis has hurt the TV station owner’s advertisers, distributors and other partners, the company said.

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“In response to this, we are currently undergoing enterprise-wide reductions across our workforce, including corporate headquarters, to ensure we are well-positioned for future success,” the statement said.

Sinclair employs 9,211 people plus 2,219 part-time freelancers. A range of positions across the organization will be cut.

Media companies have been among those hardest hit during the pandemic, with outlets that rely on advertising facing steep drops in revenue.

Sinclair, one of the nation’s largest local TV station owners, had expanded more heavily into sports broadcasting before the pandemic and struggled when professional sports seasons were cut short or postponed last year.

The company reported a massive loss for the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, as it wrote off a chunk of the value of regional sports networks it bought in 2019 for $10.6 billion. Sinclair lost $3.2 billion for the July-to-September period as it took a $4.2 billion charge to goodwill and intangible assets due to the pandemic.

Its distribution revenue declined as well, partly because of the loss of two distributors — YouTube and Hulu — that made up about 10% of its local sports distribution revenue.

The broadcaster acquired 21 sports networks and Fox College Sports in August 2019 from The Walt Disney Co. The sports networks make up the largest collection of such channels in the market and include exclusive local rights to 42 professional baseball, basketball and hockey teams.

In the last three months of 2020, Sinclair’s revenue fell 7% to $1.5 billion, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019.

Despite the year’s hardships, the company saw record political advertising spending during a presidential election year, which helped offset advertising weakness caused by the pandemic, and core advertising had begun to improve by the end of the year.

In addition to sports networks, Sinclair has invested across platforms in websites, mobile apps and streaming services such as STIRR. In November, Sinclair had agreed to a sports gambling partnership with casino operator Bally’s.

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