Sinclair Broadcast Group To Launch Headline News Service

Sinclair headquarters in Hunt Valley, MD. Steve Ruark/AP/Shutterstock

UPDATED, with comment from Sinclair’s Scott Livingston: Sinclair Broadcast Group plans to launch a headline news service in early 2021, with plans to hire 25 new employees.

At the start, the service will air weekday mornings from 6 AM to 9 AM on more than 50 of Sinclair’s owned or operated CW and MyNetwork TV affiliates, and it also will be shown on the broadcaster’s streaming service, STIRR.

The service will feature a main anchor and a “Live Desk,” which will report in real time new details on significant stories of the day. Sinclair said that it will draw on content from Sinclair stations, as well as original content produced specifically for the program.

The service also will feature national stories, but no commentary. Sinclair stations previously ran must-run opinion segments on their local news programs, but those were scaled back in December.

Sinclair indicated that the headline news service grew out of two streaming channels that it debuted this year on its STIRR service — COVID-19 News and Election 2020. The emphasis on local stories could help distinguish the service from the highly lucrative morning show franchises on the broadcast network affiliates and cable news networks.

Scott Livingston, Sinclair’s Vice President of news, said via email that he thinks “there is an over-saturation of commentary-driven news content, which is why since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and through the ongoing social justice protests and demonstrations, we have seen record viewership during our local newscasts.

“There is a strong demand for fact driven storytelling,” he added. “It was as though audiences were reminded that even though an event might be national, even global in nature, it impacts each of our communities in unique ways, ways which often go unnoticed at the national level. Further, existing morning shows are focused on what has already happened. Our goal is to focus on the stories that will make it to national news in the future.”

Sinclair said that it plans to hire anchors, producers, reporters, editors, photographers and directors, and a name is expected to be announced in the coming months, Livingston said.

The first phase of the headline news service will be focused on the morning news and they do have plans to expand to afternoon and then to evenings, he said. He said that they do not have any plans to make it a 24/7 news channel, “as that is not the goal for this service.”

“Rather than taking a story and placing it in the context of whichever opinion leader is on air, our service will take a story and place it in the context of a viewer’s own life,” Livingston said. “So many of the most important national stories originate in towns across America, and by placing a renewed emphasis on them, we believe that this new initiative will be extremely successful.”

The broadcaster is one of the largest station groups in the country. It owns or has service agreements with 191 stations in 89 markets.

The largest broadcaster, Nexstar, is launching a nightly newscast, News Nation, on WGN America on Sept. 1.

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