Sinclair Bullish on Tennis Channel Distribution

Sinclair Broadcast Group told analysts Wednesday that its January purchase of the Tennis Channel has exceeded its distribution expectations, but kept silent on reports that the broadcaster was eyeing a purchase of The Weather Channel.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Sinclair was in talks with Bain Capital, Blackstone Group and Comcast’s NBC Universal to purchase The Weather Channel in a deal that could be worth about $100 million. The Journal said that talks had been  ongoing for about a year and recently heated up. Although talks could ultimately break down, the paper said an announcement could come in the next few weeks. 

On a conference call with analysts to discuss its second quarter results, Sinclair deflected several questions from analysts about possibly buying another cable network.

Sinclair Television Group vice president and co-chief operating officer Steve Pruett said on the call that The Tennis Channel has more than exceeded the company’s expectations in terms of distribution and has represented a “substantial amount of value.”

“We look at everything that comes across our table,” Pruett said on the call. “It’s not like there are a lot of opportunities in cable that warrant our effort and attention.”

He added that any purchase would have to have unique characteristics that could either increase distribution, enhance distribution and create “tremendous value.”

Earlier, Sinclair EVP and chief operating officer David Amy said Tennis Channel added about 1 million new subscribers through an earlier carriage deal with Charter Communications that becomes effective in mid August.

Sinclair has increasingly turned to pay TV channels to help drive distribution of its channels. It launched an original content division – Sinclair Original Programming – in 2014 and owns college sports channel American Sports Network, sci-fi channel Comet TV and wrestling programmer Ring of Honor. The station group also has invested in news operations, which could fit in well with the widely distributed network. The Weather Channel is available in about 90 million homes.