The decade was one of tremendous growth for us, as we transformed into a diversified media company. Recognizing the benefits of scale and reach, we led the next wave of industry consolidation. As our platform grew and viewing patterns evolved, we launched our emerging networks, and expanded into sports content, to solidify ourselves as a leading premium local news and sports company. We ended the decade with our largest purchase to date: 21 regional sports networks that approximately doubled our company’s revenue on a pro forma basis.
We kicked off the next wave of industry consolidation when we acquired the Four Points and Freedom Communications stations.
Through our acquisition of Allbritton Communications, we acquired our first cable channel, NewsChannel8 in Washington D.C. After having acquired 109 stations in the three-year period and adding over $3 billion in assets (including Fisher Communications, Barrington Broadcast Group, New Age Media, Newport Television), we emerged not only as the leading industry consolidator, but one of the most diversified broadcasters and largest FOX, ABC, CBS, CW and MyNetworkTV affiliate in the country. Today, we own/operate 185 stations.
During the year, we debuted American Sports Network (“ASN”), a collegiate sports initiative, airing over 200 NCAA Division I games in its first year. We also created the Sinclair Original Programming division to conceive low cost original content for our stations.
In keeping with our vision for developing the industry’s digital television capabilities, we launched ONE Media, which along with Coherent Logix, was tasked with developing the next generation wireless data network to enable broadcasters to reach mobile devices, broadcast in 4K ultra high definition, and launch new business and datacasting models that could change the face and future of broadcasting. Our critical intellectual property became the basis upon which the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard (NextGen Broadcasting) would be built.
With meaningful scale and reach, we sought to become multi-platformed and vertically integrated, focusing on original programming, distribution, and network content. With our 2,200 hours of local news per week, we were now the largest producer of local news content in the country and looking to expand nationally. Further expanding our content initiatives, in 2015, we formed “COMET,” the first-ever science-fiction over-the-air multicast network in partnership with MGM; and transformed “American Sports Network,” our Company’s production of live high school and college games, into a 24/7 multicast network.
In 2016, we acquired our first national cable sports network, Tennis Channel, expanding our live sports presence and broadening the network’s audience reach.
That same year, we launched “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson,” a Sunday morning national news program and acquired NewsON, an OTT (over-the-top) streaming local news platform.
With near 39% reach of the country, we launched Audience Network Sales (now Sinclair Media Networks), a sales initiative that sells our entire footprint thereby competing for the $50 billion cable network advertising monies.
On the digital front, we launched our digital content and video management systems, which unified our digital platforms, simplified workflow and provided for dynamic ad insertion.
On the technical side, ONE Media’s essential intellectual property was approved for inclusion in the ATSC 3.0 “Next Generation” transmission standard, bringing Sinclair’s vision for an IP connected and mobile platform closer to reality.
Christopher Ripley was appointed as only Sinclair’s third CEO & President, with David Smith becoming Executive Chairman. We also launched our first vision statement, “Connecting People with Content Everywhere,” which epitomized the importance of technology to the future of the company and the industry.
The year witnessed the completion of the National Broadband Plan Spectrum Auction. As part of the Congressionally-mandated and FCC-managed spectrum auction, we and our partner stations sold three station licenses in Baltimore, Harrisburg, and Milwaukee for $311 million gross proceeds.
During the year, ASN was merged with 120 Sports and Silver Chalice to become Stadium, and Tennis Media and Tennis.com were acquired, making us the ultimate destination for all things tennis and tennis lifestyle.
Continuing our mission of wireless distribution, marketing services and content creation, we launched CHARGE!, an action-based emerging network; and TBD, a network bringing the best of the web to broadcast television.
We kicked off the year with the launch of a free, ad-supported OTT streaming service called STIRR. By the end of its first year, the platform offered audiences 100 linear channels, and more than 5,000 hours of video-on-demand content. STIRR also included STIRR City, a first-of-its-kind curated 24/7 linear TV station with a lineup based on the viewer’s city, offering local news and sports, as well as syndicated TV series, movies and city-focused lifestyle programming to audiences across country.
Soon after entering the direct-to-consumer market with STIRR, Sinclair made its first foray into regional sports networks alongside one of the most iconic teams in professional sports when we partnered with the Chicago Cubs to establish Marquee Sports Network. Later in the year, we acquired the largest portfolio of regional sports networks (RSNs) in the U.S. The purchase of 21 RSNs, combined with Marquee and a stake in the YES Network also acquired during the year, solidified us as a leader in local sports broadcasting, with live sports content for more than half of the combined MLB, NBA, & NHL teams in the country.