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Sinclair's Acquisition Of Regional Sports Networks Brings New Opportunities

September 16, 2019
By Holden Wilen | Baltimore Business Journal

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. CEO Chris Ripley sees numerous advantages for Sinclair with its newly acquired portfolio of regional sports networks. At the top of the list: sports betting.

One of the first things Sinclair is doing after closing its $9.6 billion deal for 21 Fox regional sports networks is forming a task force to come up with ideas about sports betting. Specifically, Ripley said Sinclair sees benefits in three areas: engagement, advertising and in-game betting possibilities.

Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair acquired the networks from the Walt Disney Co. Aug. 23 after receiving approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.

States across the U.S. are beginning to legalize sports betting after a Supreme Court ruling last year struck down a federal law that had effectively banned such gambling in most jurisdictions. Now Sinclair, the owner of a group of channels that has exclusive local rights to 42 professional sports teams, wants to take advantage of what it predicts will be a $5 billion sports betting market by 2025.

"We're highlighting it because it will be the most impactful thing over the next decade," Ripley said.

Sports betting will be key to attracting younger viewers who have grown up with video games because it makes the experience of watching a game more interactive, Ripley said. The regional sports networks have about 74 million subscribers, according to Sinclair.

"It adds skin in the game," Ripley said. "When people have skin in the game they engage more and watch more."

Sinclair projects the sports betting industry will be spending $1.3 billion annually by 2025 for media, including $1 billion per year for advertising. Even before acquiring the sports networks, Ripley was bullish about Sinclair's opportunities to increase TV ad revenue.

"It's a huge new ad category," Ripley said. "There's a focus on inventory and ours is the prime place for sports betting outfits. Anytime you've got a new category it puts more pressure on existing inventory and impacts rate we can charge."

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sinclair Broadcast Group

Issue 257: September 2019