While Sinclair Broadcast Group’s anticipated first quarter political take “more than exceeded our expectations,” VP and CoChief Operating Officer Steven Marks said Wednesday, this year’s unpredictable election season could have surprise benefits for local TV, too.
“This could go well for us,” Marks said during Sinclair’s earnings report for the three months ending March 31, during which Sinclair earned $24.4 million in political ad money.
Marks said that although Sinclair traditionally gets a financial boost from political spending in “the swing states we enjoy,” a Donald Trump candidacy may ramp up the battle for the presidency in other states as well, most notably New York.
That could translate into some unpredicted cash for Sinclair, whose footprint in the traditionally Democratic state includes stations in Buffalo, Albany, Rochester and Syracuse, Marks said.
“Now we enter into the New York equation where it wasn’t really up for grabs before,” he said.
Regardless, Marks said he’s “very comfortable” with the way political sales have been going this year, which he expects to remain on track even as the number of hotly contested primaries dwindles.
Political, he said, played a role in Sinclair’s revenue rising to $578.9 million during the first quarter of this year, a 14.7% increase from Q1 2015.
During the three months ending March 31, the Baltimore-based group’s operating income was $86.3 million, a 2.1% increase from last year.
Other operating report highlights include media revenues rising 14.3% to $531.3 million; and a 28.1% rise in digital revenue, according to the company’s report.
Marks said he expects Sinclair to soon reap the benefits of other initiatives including the March acquisition of the Tennis Channel, the pending launch of its digital news show, Circa, and the expansion of its ad network to include partner broadcasters.
Marks, however, said “perhaps most exciting this quarter” is the industry’s progress on the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard. In March, Sinclair launched its first Single Frequency Network, or SFN, that will be used to implement the new standard in the Washington and Baltimore DMAs.
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