Sinclair's buying binge

Hunt Valley-based Sinclair Broadcast Group rode a wave of media consolidation in 2013, announcing or closing deals involving dozens of television stations, drawing praise from analysts and criticism from advocates for diverse media ownership.

The nearly $2 billion buying spree started in February and continued through the year, expanding the broadcaster's reach in mid-sized and small markets across the United States. It will own and operate, program or provide sales services to 164 television stations in 77 markets.

By year's end, Sinclair was on track to become the largest broadcaster in the country, reaching well over a third of all TV-viewing households, and the largest broadcaster of ABC, CBS, Fox and MyTV programming.

Analysts applauded the rapid growth, saying the spree would add to earnings and offer operating efficiencies and scale. Acquisitions in swing states are expected to generate strong political revenue.

But a report by public interest group Free Press accused Sinclair and other broadcasters of using outsourcing agreements and shell companies to get around Federal Communication Commission rules limiting the number of stations a company can own in a market. Sinclair said it abides by all FCC rules.

In its largest acquisition to date, Sinclair announced in July it would buy seven ABC affiliates and a local cable news network in Washington, D.C., from Allbritton Communications Co. for nearly $1 billion. The company envisions using NewsChannel 8 to launch a hybrid local/national cable channel in all of its markets.

—Lorraine Mirabella

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