Sinclair Broadcast will launch college sports network

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. plans to launch a college sports network to be broadcast on television stations it owns, the Hunt Valley-based company said Thursday.

The American Sports Network, or ASN, will show live events, including football, basketball, soccer and other sports, from more than 50 colleges and universities. The network will launch at the start of the college football season this year.

Sinclair said it has secured rights agreements with several NCAA Division I conferences, including Conference USA, the Colonial Athletic Association, the Big South Conference, the Southern Conference and the Patriot League. Games will be broadcast in different parts of the country.

"This is another example of our foray into the content creation business," said David Smith, Sinclair's president and CEO. "We have a history of producing large amounts of successful, first-run, original content through our local newscasts, high school sports presentations and Ring of Honor wrestling, and have demonstrated our ability to brand content and build audience share."

Sinclair also has said it plans to create a cable television news channel blending local and national programming in the next couple of years.

The ASN games, as well as programs showcasing the colleges and their student-athletes, will be shown in primary program lineups on Sinclair's CW and MyNet affiliates or on subchannels of the primary stations' signals. Conference commissioners said the network will give them new exposure and help highlight students' achievements.

Sinclair also is looking into developing new cable networks and digital platforms to showcase the sporting events or making the games available to other television broadcasters.

"We believe there is significant value and consumer appeal for live sporting events from these important institutions," said Doron Gorshein, chief operating officer of Sinclair Networks and head of the new network. Gorshein, who joined Sinclair in January, founded the cable network America Channel in 2003, which acquired one of the largest NCAA Division I sports rights holdings in the nation.

Sinclair shares rose 44 cents Thursday to close at $33.39.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com