Factoring in the UHF discount, however, lowers its post-Tribune coverage to just below the FCC’s 39% cap.
Assuming that all goes according to its latest divestiture plan in connection with its Tribune merger, Sinclair Broadcast Group will reach 58.8% of U.S. TV homes, just under the FCC’s nominal national ownership cap of 39% after discounting the reach of Sinclair’s many UHF stations.
In calculating reach for purposes of the ownership cap, the FCC discounts by half the reach of any market in which the station group has only UHF stations.
The discount allows groups to grow far beyond the nominal 39% cap. However, the discount is being challenged in federal court. Oral arguments on the challenge were heard last week.
When the deal was originally presented to the FCC, Sinclair’s post-merger coverage was put at 72%. And it also said it would spin off WPIX New York to a sidecar company, it’s now keeping WPIX.
To bring its Tribune merger below 39%, Sinclair told the FCC in a filing today that it will spin off six stations from the merger.
Two of those stations — KDAF Dallas (DMA 5) and KIAH Houston (7) — will go to an affiliated company, Cunningham Broadcasting, a company closely affiliated with Sinclair.
In addition, Sinclair said, it will spin off four stations to an unnamed buyer. They are WSFL Miami (DMA 16), KTXL Sacramento (20), WJW Cleveland (19) and KSWB San Diego (29).
The unnamed buyer is believed to be Fox. Fox is declining to comment on the speculation.
In its FCC filing, Sinclair said that it is also spinning off Tribune flagship WGN Chicago, even though it is not necessary to comply with the cap.
Not counting the WGN spinoff, Sinclair said, its post-merger nominal reach will be 38.86%, below the 39% cap.
Counting the WGN spinoff, the nominal reach falls to 37.39%, giving Sinclair 1.61% of headroom to acquire stations in other markets.
As it said before, WGN will go to Steven Fader, a business associate of Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith. Sinclair will continue to operate WGN through joint sales and shared services agreements.