Shares for the TV station group are down about 6.6% this morning after it missed Q4 earnings estimates, bringing its year-to-date stock performance to -27.2%. But execs urged analysts not to fret about its prospects — including if broadcasters fail to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court that Aereo infringes on their copyrights. For example, networks probably wouldn’t follow through on threats to restrict their prime time shows to pay TV if justices say that the streaming service can pick up local broadcasters’ over-the-air signals without paying a license fee. “The truth of the matter is that the amount of support that we provide as affiliates to the network programming is significant, especially with the amount of local programming that we supply, news production, and syndicated product that we purchase,” Sinclair CEO David Smith says. The variation in network ratings in different markets “demonstrates the importance of local branding to the networks and to their viewing.” Nor is the station group chief fearful that cable and satellite companies might replicate Aereo’s antenna-based technology to avoid paying retransmission consent fees to broadcasters. With all of the laws and regulations that govern pay TV providers’ relationship with TV stations, ”you’re talking years and years before that would get settled.” Smith also shrugged off the latest copyright infringement suit against Aereo in Utah, saying that “any litigation we’ve got going in Salt Lake City could be diluted by what the Supreme Court does.” The high court will hear arguments on April 22.
Sinclair continues its TV station buying spree today by snapping up Fisher, a TV and radio power in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Sinclair’s stock is up 5.8% this morning to the highest levels investors have seen in more than a decade after it agreed to pay $373.3M, or $41 a share, for Fisher. That’s a 44% premium to Fisher’s trading price before January 10 when it said it would explore “strategic alternatives,” effectively putting itself on the block. Fisher shares are up 4.6% this morning, and more than 50% since the beginning of 2013. Fisher’s 20 TV stations, which reach 3.9% of the country, include ABC affiliates in Seattle and Portland, OR; CBS stations in Spokane, Boise, and Eugene; the NBC outlet in Eugene; and Fox, Univision, and CW affiliates. “We are excited to acquire Fisher and expand our coverage westward, especially in the two key markets of Seattle and Portland,” Sinclair CEO David Smith says.
Sinclair Broadcast Group‘s shares are up about 1.6% in after-market trading after it announced its second major station deal this week — part of an effort to boost its presence in small markets — and a side pact to sell stations to a new firm owned by conservative commentator Armstrong Williams. The latest acquisition includes 18 stations owned by Barrington Broadcasting, with an additional agreement to either operate or provide services to six other stations. The 24 stations reach 3.4% of the country and include affiliates for all of the major networks including NBC outlets in Flint, Mich.; Toledo, Ohio; and Syracuse, NY. Sinclair says it expects the deal to close in Q2, following FCC and antitrust approval. It will take out bank loans or access capital markets to pay for the stations. On Tuesday, Sinclair agreed to pay $95M for four outlets owned by Cox Media.