Sinclair Broadcast Group, fresh from announcing its acquisition of 21 formerly Fox-owned regional sports networks that were sold off by Disney, reported mixed first-quarter financial results.
Earnings per share of 23 cents fell short of Wall Street analysts’ estimates and dropped nearly in half from the 42 cents reported in the prior-year quarter. Total revenue topped analysts’ forecasts at $722.1 million, up more than 8% from $665.4 million in the prior year period.
CEO Chris Ripley told analysts during a conference call to discuss the quarter that the company is looking closely at synergies between the RSNs and the company’s STIRR service. Channels on STIRR, which launched in January, includes a collection of news, sports and local offerings.
While he cautioned that STIRR remains “in start-up mode,” it has shown encouraging initial usage patterns. Sports programming could be incorporated in a way that requires viewers to authenticate through their pay-TV provider. Reipley said it’s “absolutely in the product plan,” though it “won’t likely be turned on in the near term.”
Ripley emphasized the changes in the company of late, with the RSN portfolio joining a previously announced venture with the Chicago Cubs for a new network launching in 2020. While it has acquired properties such as the Tennis Channel in recent years, the company’s core focus throughout its 30-plus-year history has been local broadcasting. It is, for now, the leading owner of local TV stations, though Nexstar is expected to surpass it later this year when it closes its acquisition of Tribune Media. Sinclair had spent more than a year planning to add Tribune, only to see the deal go sideways over 11th-hour regulatory concerns.
“We are transforming the company, diversifying our content sources and revenue mix and building a leading local news and sports organization on all platforms,” Ripley said in the earnings release.
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