BALTIMORE -- Sinclair Broadcast Group expects this presidential election year to deliver the highest political advertising sales in the media company's history.
The Maryland-based broadcaster discussed political revenue expectations Wednesday as it announced fourth quarter financial results. Its previous high for political spending in a year was $266 million.
"We are intently focused on continuing recent successes in growing our share of political advertising dollars for our stations and now sports networks, unique among our broadcast peers," said Chris Ripley, Sinclair's president and CEO, during a call with analysts.
Already, the year is off to a strong financial start with political spending running "well ahead" of the same period in 2016, the last presidential election year, Ripley said.
A key focus for Sinclair this year will be capturing some of "what is believed to be unprecedented political advertising spending," Ripley said. "We expect 2020 to be our highest political revenue on record."
The broadcaster began a shift toward becoming a more diversified media company last year when it bought 21 regional sports networks and Fox College Sports from Disney for $10.6 billion. The deal made the TV station owner the nation's largest provider of local sports programming.
Sinclair on Wednesday reported a fourth-quarter income $44 million, or 47 cents per share, compared with income of $206 million, or 2.10 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2018, an election year.
Total revenues jumped 82% to $1.6 billion, with political revenues of $23 million in the fourth quarter compared with $150 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, an election year.
Sinclair missed the expectations of Wall Street analysts, who projected fourth quarter earnings of $1.03 per share and revenue of $1.62 billion. Sinclair shares tumbled Wednesday, off 11.5% to $24.31 each in midday trading.
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