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Sinclair Broadcast to Acquire Allbritton TV Stations for $985 Million

UPDATED: The transaction follows two big station deals by Gannett and Tribune.

Broadcaster Sinclair Broadcast Group said Monday it has agreed to acquire the TV stations owned by Allbritton in a $985 million deal.

The Allbritton stations consist of seven ABC Network affiliates, covering 4.9 percent of U.S. TV households, and NewsChannel 8, a 24-hour cable/satellite news network covering the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Including this and other announced acquisitions, Sinclair will own and operate, program or provide sales services to 149 TV stations in 76 markets. Sinclair's station group will reach approximately 38.2 percent of U.S. TV households.

The deal announcement comes after big recent TV station acquisitions by Gannett, which agreed to buy Belo Corp. for $2.2 billion, and Tribune Co., which has agreed to buy 19 stations from Local TV Holdings for $2.73 billion.

Completion of the transaction is subject to the satisfaction of closing conditions, including FCC approval. The company said it expects the transaction to close in the fourth quarter.

"We are thrilled to add the Allbritton properties to our growing portfolio and national footprint," said David Smith, president and CEO of Sinclair. "To buy a full-blown news operation in our nation's capital and an infrastructure that allows us to be connected to our branches of government and be at the pulse of national issues is a once-in-a lifetime event."

Smith said that NewsChannel 8 can provide new content for the company's existing news stations, and "their regional cable presence provides the perfect platform should we decide to expand it into other markets, especially given the amount of local news we produce across our entire portfolio."

"We think that Sinclair has plans to roll out the cable news network across all of its markets, infusing local news into a national news format," said Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker. "This network would be the first of its kind and likely to bring significant synergies over time. We estimate there could be about $300 million of incremental revenue."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai