In some of his first public comments since the FCC torpedoed his company’s long-planned acquisition of rival Tribune Media, Sinclair Broadcast Group CEO Chris Ripley doubled down on his staunchly deregulatory rhetoric.
Moderator Rick Howe let Ripley off the hook in terms of Tribune, which is embroiled in a legal fight with Sinclair over the merger meltdown, during the 30-minute conversation at NAB Show New York. But he did ask Ripley for an update on Sinclair’s general M&A outlook. “We’re just entirely too small as an industry,” he said, given that broadcasters have to go up against deep-pocketed tech giants like Netflix and Google.
“The entire broadcast industry has a market capitalization of maybe no more than $10 billion,” he said. “We’re now in a world where we’re competing against companies that are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. … More consolidation has to be part of the mix. We’re focused on more consolidation within television” as well as some adjacent markets like cable.
Speaking of cable, Ripley reiterated comments from over the summer that the company is actively considering a bid for the regional sports networks that Disney must sell off from the 21st Century Fox assets it is soon to acquire.
After the session, Ripley was asked by a reporter whether the lack of an OK for the Tribune deal by the Department of Justice, which was reviewing it in parallel with the FCC (and would have to sign off on an RSN offer), impairs the company’s M&A mobility. “It does not,” he answered succinctly. While walking out of the Javits Center, he added that Sinclair could potentially swing a deal for individual pieces of the Fox RSN portfolio given their total price tag north of $20 billion, which would be a lot for a company Sinclair’s size.
Thrown a curveball by Howe about potential interest in acquiring a cable operator (not a common combination and not one that’s been rumored), Ripley said that such a deal is not currently on the table. “But I never say no to anything,” he said. “For the right price, I’ll literally buy anything.”