Home » Online Video » Recent Articles:

Sinclair May Sell Big Tribune TV Stations to Shell Corporation Sinclair’s Founding Family Controls

Allegedly independent Cunningham Broadcasting’s headquarters are located at 2000 West 41st Street in Baltimore, coincidentally the same address as Sinclair-owned WBFF-TV, the city’s FOX affiliate.

An analyst warns Sinclair Broadcasting’s willingness to part with WPIX-TV in New York and WGN-TV in Chicago may amount to transferring control of the stations on paper from one hand to the other.

Broadcasting & Cable reports an unnamed source told the trade publication Sinclair is considering “selling” the stations to Cunningham Broadcasting, which is effectively Sinclair in all but name.

Cunningham and Sinclair are more than a little close. The majority of Cunningham-owned stations are run by Sinclair under local marketing agreements, and Sinclair’s founding family controls more than 90% of Cunningham’s stock. That has led to repeated accusations Cunningham is nothing more than a shell corporation used by Sinclair to circumvent the FCC’s TV station ownership caps, something both companies strenuously deny. But observers note some remarkable coincidences, starting with the Cunningham name itself. Cunningham Farms, on a 200-acre estate, Cunningham Manor, are both owned by Sinclair executive chairman David Smith.

Cunningham Broadcasting’s corporate headquarters are inside the studios of WBFF-TV, Sinclair’s FOX affiliate in Baltimore. Cunningham owns WNUV, Baltimore’s CW affiliate, which is also run from the same building as WBFF.

WNUV was originally planned to be a direct Sinclair acquisition, but FCC rules prohibited that. So Sinclair guaranteed loans allowing Glencairn Ltd., (later to be renamed Cunningham Broadcasting), to acquire WNUV instead. At the time, Carolyn Cunningham Smith, the mother of Sinclair’s current executive chairman David Smith, had voting control of Cunningham. That control has since passed to a trust run for the benefit of Smith’s children after Carolyn died in 2012.

After Glencairn/Cunningham won control of the station, it immediately signed a local marketing agreement with Sinclair. That agreement merged WNUV’s operations under the control of Sinclair-owned WBFF. Most employees at WNUV report to Sinclair management. Many of the Cunningham-owned stations also offer options to Sinclair to acquire the stations outright should deregulation of ownership limits permit.

A shell corporation is essentially an entity in name only, usually quietly controlled by someone else seeking to keep their true identity secret.

Should WPIX-TV and WGN-TV end up in the hands of Cunningham, it would be unprecedented for a company its own president admitted in 2013 was dependent on Sinclair to help program their stations, noting Sinclair is “a smart company, and they certainly have a lot more experience.” WPIX is in the nation’s number one television market, WGN is in the third largest market. The majority of Cunningham’s 20 stations are FOX, CW, or MyNetworkTV affiliates in small and medium-sized markets. A few are so small, they don’t even have websites.

Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, suspects Sinclair could once again be thumbing its nose at the FCC’s ownership caps, and the planned divestiture may be in name only.

“It’s not clear to me who the new owner is going to be from the documents filed, but it sure looks like business as usual for Sinclair, which has long specialized in propping up shell companies to evade FCC rules,” Aaron told The Baltimore Sun. “The idea that Armstrong Williams [owner of another side entity that also owns stations that Sinclair runs] or Cunningham or whoever they are setting up as the ‘owner’ of these stations is independent from Sinclair, at least if the past is any guide, is a complete fiction. Sinclair should not be allowed to set up shady front companies to evade the congressionally mandated ownership caps. But Ajit Pai’s FCC is aiding and abetting this ruse in every way.”

The FCC’s inspector general is reportedly now investigating whether Pai improperly pushed through ownership cap rule changes to directly benefit Sinclair’s efforts to grow even larger.

Should Sinclair successfully acquire Tribune Media’s television stations, Sinclair will control 233 television stations that reach 72 percent of U.S. households. The FCC’s media ownership cap now limits an single owner’s reach to 39% of the nation’s audience.

While the FCC has shown little interest in slowing down Sinclair, the Justice Department has previously blocked some of Sinclair’s moves. When Sinclair was forced to divest WSYT-TV, the FOX affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., it first hoped to sell the station to Howard Stirk Holdings, owned by conservative commentator Armstrong Williams.

Williams coincidentally has served as a longtime commentator for Sinclair, which forces its owned and operated stations to carry conservative messages in local newscasts. Sinclair believed so much in Armstrong, it guaranteed his company’s acquisition loans in similar deals. Sinclair may also benefit from the fact that Armstrong, a minority, gets extra consideration and relaxed rules from the FCC to promote minority station ownership. In other deals, after taking ownership, Armstrong promptly signed contracts with Sinclair to run the stations for him.

The Justice Department was not convinced by explanations of the close relationship between Armstrong and Sinclair. It objected to the sale, writing “it wouldn’t work” because “it would still be like a duopoly.” Sinclair also couldn’t persuade the Justice Department to believe Sinclair and Cunningham were completely independent companies either, eventually forcing Sinclair to abandon efforts to sell WSYT to Cunningham. Today WSYT is owned by Northwest Broadcasting, which owns a handful of stations in the rural Rocky Mountain west and has no ties to Sinclair.

Anderson admitted what was behind the maneuvering to sell WSYT in a 2013 Wall Street Journal story.

“They [The Justice Department] were not comfortable yet,” Anderson said, “and in the interest of time, Sinclair went to Plan B [selling the station to Northwest Broadcasting].”

“It’s a scandal,” Aaron told CNN in 2017. “Trump-favoring mega-chain [Sinclair] gets rules changed — and expects others to be erased — so it can put its cookie-cutter newscasts in nearly 70 percent of local markets across the country. I feel terrible for the local journalists who will be forced to set aside their news judgment to air Trump administration talking points and reactionary commentaries from headquarters. This deal would have been DOA in any other administration, but the Trump FCC isn’t just approving it; they’re practically arranging it.”

Another Phone Company Flop: Disconnecting CenturyLink Stream After Less Than One Year

Phillip Dampier February 21, 2018 CenturyLink, Competition, Consumer News, Online Video 2 Comments

CenturyLink Stream, the phone company’s planned nationwide alternative to cable television, will shut down its streamed package of nearly 50 channels on March 31.

The phone company had contemplated using CenturyLink Stream to compliment its package of phone and broadband service to budget-conscious customers. But Multichannel News reports subscribers were notified this week CenturyLink was pulling the plug on the service and its companion $89.99 Android TV set-top box that interfaced between a customer’s broadband connection and their television.

“Thank you to all who have streamed with us and provided feedback,” the company noted on its website. As compensation, customers are getting free on-demand rentals of movies on the service until it shuts down.

CenturyLink Stream’s “Ultimate” package sold for $45 per month, with a $5 discount if a CenturyLink customer bundled the company’s broadband service. It included a 50-hour cloud DVR service and access in some markets to local stations and regional sports channels.

CenturyLink’s Prism TV continues.

The company has stayed silent on exactly why it is pulling the plug on the service, which had been beta testing over the past year. Independent telephone companies beyond AT&T and Verizon have struggled to deliver credible triple play packages of fast broadband, phone service, and a lineup of cable television programming. Frontier Communications has avoided expanding its FiOS TV package outside of service areas acquired from AT&T and Verizon. Windstream recently announced a deal with AT&T to resell its DirecTV and DirecTV Now video packages, which could spell trouble for Windstream’s Kinetic TV platform, which has only slowly expanded since being announced in 2015.

Analysts say it is increasingly difficult for smaller companies to profitably sell video programming because of generous volume discounts on wholesale rates offered to the country’s biggest satellite TV, cable, and telco TV providers. AT&T itself acquired DirecTV to get better video pricing for its U-verse TV customers. Smaller phone companies cannot afford similar acquisitions. Instead, some companies have partnered with third-party providers already in the video business.

The National Cable TV Cooperative, which offers group pricing to small and medium-sized independent cable companies and municipal providers, have already announced partnerships with sports-oriented fuboTV and PlayStation Vue, which both sell packages of cable TV programming streamed over the internet.

That is the likely direction CenturyLink will head in, if it continues its interest in selling a television package.

“[W]e are open to looking at other options,” Glen Post, CenturyLink’s CEO, said last August on the company’s Q2 earnings call, noted Multichannel News. “Matter of fact, we continually talk with some of these other providers, look at the best ways we can bring that service and also other ways in working with them to reduce our content cost…It does not have to be our product.”

Sinclair Offers to Sell WPIX, WGN to Win Approval of Tribune Station Deal

Phillip Dampier February 21, 2018 Competition, Online Video, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

Sinclair Broadcast Group has told the Federal Communications Commission it is willing to sell two well-recognized TV stations in Chicago and New York owned by Tribune Media if it will help win approval of its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune-owned stations by the Justice Department and FCC.

The move is a sign Sinclair may be concerned its blockbuster acquisition might not get approved if the deal remains mired in the regulatory review process.

The filing is effectively a new application because it fundamentally changes the structure of the deal and its impact on several TV markets where Sinclair could own multiple stations in a single city.

Few expected Sinclair would offer to divest WGN-TV Chicago and WPIX-TV in New York, which are major market stations with major advertising revenue. Sinclair also offered to sell off KSWB-TV, San Diego’s FOX affiliate, to keep Sinclair under the FCC’s theoretical 39% nationwide audience cap, which was watered down in 2017 by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to count UHF stations at only 50% of their actual viewing audiences — a direct benefit to Sinclair, which already owns and controls an enormous station group that had been constrained from getting much larger.

As part of the revised proposal, Sinclair will sell one or more stations in the following markets, with FOX often mentioned as a potential buyer:

  1. Seattle, Washington;
  2. St. Louis, Missouri;
  3. Salt Lake City, Utah;
  4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma;
  5. Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, North Carolina;
  6. Grand Rapids, Michigan;
  7. Richmond, Virginia;
  8. Des Moines-Ames, Iowa.

But Sinclair is seeking a waiver to continue to own two of the top four stations in Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, N.C., Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, Pa., and Indianapolis, Ind.

Selling WPIX and WGN will likely make a significant dent in Sinclair’s acquisition expenses, if the deal is approved.

WPIX and WGNhave been owned by Tribune since both stations first signed on in 1948.

New Verizon FiOS Triple Play Customers Get Free Netflix for a Year

Phillip Dampier February 14, 2018 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Verizon No Comments

To celebrate the addition of Netflix to Verizon FiOS’ set top boxes, Verizon is giving new customers signing up online a free year of Netflix.

The lowest priced promotional package that includes the Netflix offer combines Verizon’s Custom TV package, 150/150 Mbps broadband, and Unlimited Nationwide Calling phone service for $79.99 a month. The free Netflix offer still applies if a customer chooses to upgrade certain elements of their package at a higher price. A 2-year contact applies with an early termination fee. Consult the Verizon website for more details.

Verizon FiOS TV customers can watch Netflix by tuning to channel 838 and authenticating their Netflix subscription by logging in. Once signed in, FiOS customers can access Netflix without having to use a streaming device or Smart TV.

The deal is valid for both new and existing Netflix customers, and is a savings of $10.99 a month for 12 months.

Verizon does offer some fine print, however:

Offer avail. 1/18 – 4/18. Valid for 12 mos. of Netflix service on the $10.99/mo. “2 Screen Streaming Plan” (total value of $131.88). New or existing Netflix subscription & compatible device req’d. and must maintain qualifying FiOS services for 60 days after installation, with no past-due balance. A one-time bill credit of $131.88 will be applied directly to customer’s Netflix account. Must be redeemed by 8/31/18. Not redeemable or refundable for cash. Value may be applied to a different Netflix streaming plan; exchanges in this manner may alter the duration of the offer. Netflix Service price plans subject to change. Not available to subscribers billed through iTunes or Google play unless subscriber begins a new subscription billed via alternate payment provider or via Netflix.com.


YouTube TV Gets Turner Networks and More Sports Channels… and a $5 Price Hike

Phillip Dampier February 14, 2018 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, YouTube TV No Comments

YouTube TV is adding seven new basic cable networks owned by Time Warner/Turner Broadcasting to its lineup along with NBA TV and the MLB Network.

The new TW/Turner Network channels — TNT, TBS, CNN, truTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Turner Classic Movies, along with more sports programming, will also mean a $5 a month rate hike for the streaming service, effective March 13.

Existing YouTube TV customers and those signing up before the rate increase takes effect will be spared the price increase, paying $35 a month for the service instead of the $40 rate charged new customers next month.

YouTube TV has focused much of its attention in the last year on getting local broadcast stations on its lineup, and now has a complete assortment of NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX affiliates in dozens of TV markets. One of the reasons cord-cutters are reluctant to cancel their cable subscription is the loss of local stations, but YouTube TV has managed to overcome that roadblock for many subscribers.

The service has spent much of its annual budget on sports channels, which are usually the most costly basic cable networks. The addition of Time Warner, Inc./Turner Broadcasting cable networks came as a result of subscriber demand. Time Warner, fighting the Department of Justice over its proposed acquisition by AT&T, will likely use the new agreement as additional evidence the company is not withholding popular cable programming from AT&T’s competitors.

YouTube TV offers a 7-day free trial, after which subscribers are charged $35 a month. If interested in the service, now is the time to subscribe before it costs $60 more a year.

Search This Site:


Recent Comments:

  • DL: The frontier service is suck that you can't imagine. I made 4 times appointment with them and they never show up or call. Yes, their service is so ter...
  • James: San Diego here. It took speaking to whatever the retentions department at Spectrum now is, but they were able to reduce my Ultra 300 bill to the curre...
  • RipgilHen: Voglio dimagrire senza palestra stihi.ru...
  • Alex: Another catch (I'm about to sign up for the "choice" package) is this: I get to pick 10 free channels out of the 60 channel line up when I sign up. Bu...
  • EJ: What area do you live in? Are you in the area that is affected by the strike? That long of a wait time for phone service is generally not okay. They s...
  • Chris: I am glad I found this site. Been with charter for well over a decade. Finally have phone service available in my area, on the west coast. However, w...
  • C Hines: How bout my phone went out on Sunday and they’re telling me it will be 4/11 before they can maybe get it fixed. I live in a very rural area with no ce...
  • Rosemary Reich: Throughout conversion to digital we have consistently mislead, lied to and bait and switched. If you like the Post Office and old Ma Bell...you will ...
  • Sam: This is such a stupid problem. Every TV provider that isn't a cable company understands that selling service by the simultaneous stream is the future....
  • scott: but no fox sports midwest for cards and blurs games. sorry but charter is way late to the party. playstation vue has everybody beat by a long shot . ...
  • EJ: That is not a fair rational at all. Fiber can be run by backbone only companies. It will take time yes, but if the wireless companies are willing to d...
  • L. Nova: Anyone who thinks that this 5G is going to be the savior for wireless doesn’t get it: you still need a lot of fiber to connect these antennas. There’s...

Your Account: