Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest station groups in the country, is cutting about 5% of the workforce, job reductions that the company said was due to decline in revenue from the Covid-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for Sinclair said in a statement, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt across all sectors of the economy, something that can have a profound impact on a company as diversified as ours. From local businesses and advertisers to distributors and partners, no component of our business’s ecosystem has been fully shielded from the impact of the global pandemic. In response to this, we are currently undergoing enterprise-wide reductions across our workforce, including corporate headquarters, to ensure we are well-positioned for future success.”
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The company has 9,211 employees, a spokesperson said. Based on the 5% figure, that would mean the impact would affect roughly 460 employees, although it was unclear how many of the job reductions were through layoffs or cuts to unfilled positions.
As the No. 2 owner of local TV stations in the U.S., Sinclair has shifted its strategy since being eclipsed by rival Nexstar, which bought Tribune Media after an accepted Sinclair bid for Tribune failed to clear regulatory hurdles and ended in a legal mess.
Sports became the North Star for Sinclair. The company led the acquisition of the former Fox-owned regional sports networks, rebranding them under the Bally’s betting name to emphasize the gambling dimension of sports media of late. The company also teamed with the Chicago Cubs to launch a Chicago RSN, Marquee. Sinclair also owns the Tennis Channel and a free, ad-supported sports streaming outlet called Stadium.
When Covid-19 hit, it did more damage to Sinclair than to others in sports. Fewer games were played and ratings dropped. Compounding the problem, a major distribution partner, Dish Network, declined to renew the RSNs, in an ongoing impasse that has cost the company many millions in revenue.
In an earnings call last week, president and CEO Chris Ripley said that the “media industry and Sinclair faced and continue to face many disruptions in core advertising, distribution revenues and live sporting events. However, built-in hedges to shorten professional sports seasons as well as record political revenues helped to offset some of the declines brought about by the pandemic.”
Sinclair reported revenues of $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter, a decrease of almost 7% from a year earlier. Net income was $467 million, compared to $44 million in the same period a year earlier.