a media industry resource

Sinclair Group


This profile considers the Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

It covers -

  • introduction
  • the group
  • evolution
  • studies


Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) claims to be the largest US television broadcast group not owned by a network. It includes 20 FOX, 19 WB, six UPN, eight ABC, three CBS, four NBC affiliates and two independent stations reaching around 24% of US television households.

Like competitor Paxson it has disposed of its radio interests (with a major sale to Entercom in 1999) in order to increase the number of owned and/or operated stations.

The SBG corporate site is here.

The group

SBG dates from 1971, when the Sinclair Smith family established a UHF commercial television station in Baltimore.

The group now claims to be

- one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies, currently owns and operates, programs, or provides sales services to 63 television stations in 40 markets. Sinclair's television group reaches approximately 25.0% of U.S television households and includes ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, WB, and UPN affiliates

It has sold radio broadcasting interests acquired in the 1990s.


UHF enthusiast Julian Sinclair Smith launched UHF television station WBFF-TV in Baltimore in 1971 and established Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. in 1986. Creation of the group reflected perceptions that UHF stations were undervalued relative to cable television networks.

During 1990 Smith's four son acquired the remaining interests in SBG from their parents, going on to buy WPGH-TV Pittsburgh in 1991. During 1994 SBG acquired four stations (with options on other stations). SBG went public in 1995, gaining US$111 million for further acquisitions (buying five stations in four markets during that year). In 1996 it acquired River City Broadcasting, with 23 radio stations and several tv stations. SBG's holdings amounted to 28 television stations in 21 markets and 23 radio stations in seven markets.

During 1998 SBG acquired Heritage Broadcasting from Murdoch's News for US$630 million, seven tv stations from Guy Gannett Communications for US$310 million, 14 tv stations from Sullivan Broadcasting and stations from Max Media for US$252 million. Those purchases established it as one of the largest US broadcasters - although dwarfed by majors such as Clear and Viacom. In 1999, amid dot-com euphoria, SBG launched a ventures arm that acquired 89% of e-business solutions and applications provider G1440, Jadoo Power Systems, TimeDomain, VisionAir, AppForge, auto dealership Summa Holdings, mezzanine financier Allegiance Capital and 16.5% of Synergy Brands. SBG also purchased 32% of Acrodyne Communications, a manufacturer of transmitters and other television broadcast equipment.

In 1999 it sold most of its radio operations - by then 41 stations - to Entercom for US$821 million, with the remaining stations being sold to Emmis in 2000. During 2002 it sold the WTTK tv station to Tribune for US$125 million.

It attracted attention in 2004 for allegedly partisan treatment of the presidential elections.


There is no major study of the group or its founding family.