Sinclair doubles Q4 profits, eyes big 2017 amid deregulation

Sinclair
Following a relatively strong quarter that didn’t quite live up to analysts’ expectations, Sinclair is looking ahead to 2017 and anticipating big things with the broadcast incentive auctions over, a new FCC chairman in place and ATSC 3.0 approval in the pipeline.

Sinclair Broadcast Group reported (PDF) fourth-quarter earnings today, including net income of $120.9 million, more than double the $58.2 million earned in the year-ago quarter.

For the quarter, Sinclair’s total revenues increased 30.4% to $797.7 million, up from $611.8 million one year ago, and operating income was $233.4 million, up 87.9% from $124.2 one year ago.

The spike in revenues came thanks to 33.1% growth in media revenues, driven by political revenues of $113.2 million and a 21% increase in revenues from digital offerings.

Following a relatively strong quarter that didn’t quite live up to analysts’ expectations, Sinclair is looking ahead to 2017 and anticipating big things with the broadcast incentive auctions over, a new FCC chairman in place and ATSC 3.0 approval in the pipeline.

“With the spectrum auction coming to an end and the potential for deregulation on the horizon, we expect 2017 to be a pivotal year for Sinclair and the broadcast industry,” said David Smith, executive chairman of Sinclair, in a statement. “Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission is in process of conducting a rulemaking proceeding for the use of ATSC 3.0 (the Next Generation Broadcast Standard), which we expect will result in its approval later this year. The new technology is expected to revolutionize the broadcast industry and provide for new business opportunities, products and services. We anticipate the long-awaited deregulation of the industry’s antiquated rules and the end of the spectrum quiet period to spur consolidation; a positive given that our industry has been prohibited from competing on a level playing field with other forms of media.”

RELATED: Sinclair CEO: Broadcasting isn’t a growth business, but ATSC 3.0 can change that

While Sinclair awaits FCC action on broadcast ownership rules and next-generation TV, the broadcaster has a number of other projects recently launched or coming up. In February Sinclair will launch TBD, a multiscreen TV network focused on bringing internet-first content to TV homes. Also this month Sinclair, along with MGM, will launch CHARGE!, a new adventure and action-based network.

“2017 is off to a productive start with the launch of two emerging multicast networks, TBD and CHARGE!, which join our already successful multicast network, COMET,” said Chris Ripley, president and CEO of Sinclair, in a statement. “Our other platforms continue to grow with increased distribution of Tennis Channel and double digit percent growth in our digital revenues. In addition, the auction proceeds will provide us additional optionality to further grow the Company and create value for our shareholders.”

For the full year, Sinclair’s total revenues increased 23.3% to $2.7 billion, operating income rose 42.6% to $602.9 million, and net income reached $245.3 million, up from $171.5 million one year ago.