After the prolific 2010’s decade, the 2020’s started with a world-wide global health crisis and pandemic, the COVID-19 coronavirus. In unprecedented government actions, businesses were forced to close as workforces transitioned to work-from-home; the public mandated to wear face masks, shelter in place and socially distance; professional sports were suspended; and advertising experienced declines not seen since the Great Recession. At the same time, workers were voluntarily resigning from their jobs en masse, a phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. The effects of the pandemic on the world’s economies and supply chain, the Great Resignation on the labor markets, and Russia’s attack on Ukraine on world-wide oil and grain supplies, led to some of the highest inflation in 40 years and the country’s next recession.
The period also saw the deployment of ATSC 3.0 (now known as NextGen Broadcast). David Smith’s vision from the late 1990’s for the mobility of the television signal was finally realized. NextGen TV enables broadcasters to significantly expand the data and content transmitted on the existing spectrum, provide mobility of the television signal, offer targeted content, broadcast in high-quality video and immersive sound, converge over-the-air and over-the-top technologies, and allow for meaningful opportunities for data delivery as a service applications. As the driving force behind the groundbreaking new technology, we continue to advance the acceptance and implementation of the technology worldwide.
The year will be remembered for the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic which disrupted businesses and personal lives. Unlike the Great Recession’s financial crisis, the pandemic was a health crisis that put the economy into recession, shuttering small and medium-sized businesses. It was also a year of civil unrest. The fragile state of the country resulted in record levels of political advertising revenues, which helped to offset significantly lower advertising revenues due to the pandemic.
Despite this turmoil, we continued on our path to be a leading diversified media company. Tennis Channel was already broadcasting major tennis events from around the world such as Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open and Roland Garros (French Open). In 2020 it expanded its distribution internationally with the launch of subscription and FAST (free ad supported) channels in Austria, Switzerland and Germany.
As the year ended, we entered into a long-term naming partnership for our RSNs with Bally’s Corp. The RSNs were now known as Bally’s Sports.
Continuing our focus on our core business and local news, we launched The National Desk (TND), a revolutionary model that takes important and relevant stories from our local newscasts across the country and packages them into a national news broadcast.
As a result of several MVPDs dropping carriage of the RSNs, the RSNs’ entered into new financing and other terms to raise liquidity for the longer term and to launch Bally Sports+, the RSNs Direct-to-Consumer subscription offering. As a result of changes in the subsidiary’s board composition, the RSNs were deconsolidated from Sinclair’s financial statements effective March 1st, despite Sinclair’s equity ownership and management services agreements.
This same year, we added gamification elements such as free-to-play games, rewards, an NFT store (OwnMine), and other social participation features. Tennis Channel launched T2, connected TV FAST channels, and continued their international distribution. ATSC 3.0 was now deployed in over 50% of the country, and we and USSI Global entered into the first live business use case to deliver data to electric vehicle charging stations.