For years, Fox News and Sinclair Broadcast Group have vied for the position of the most influential force in conservative TV news. And while Fox has gotten all the attention, Sinclair has had the power.
Credit the company’s strategy, which relies not on airing high-profile opinion makers, but on scooping up trusted local TV stations and seeding them with right-leaning commentators and editorials read by seemingly unbiased news people. Sinclair is soon to be in more than 70 percent of American households, and unlike Fox News, which has a known reputation for conservative commentary, Sinclair disguises its opinion with trusted news brands viewers have known for years.
But the company seems to have plans to grow beyond that. Last May, Sinclair purchased Tribune Media for $3.9 million, sparking speculation that it would launch a competitor to Fox News once the deal clears regulatory hurdles. Those plans appeared to lay dormant until recently, when executives began holding interviews with potential employees for a new prime-time news and opinion lineup. Among those on the shortlist are several talking heads who once called Fox News home.
Politico reports that Sinclair executive chairman David Smith is considering bringing Greta Van Susteren and former The Five host Eric Bolling aboard. James Rosen, the longtime chief Washington correspondent for Fox News who left the network amid sexual harassment allegations, is also in the running. Not among those under consideration, Politico says, is former Fox News superstar Bill O’Reilly, who flirted with Sinclair last year before being rejected.
Politico adds that the shape of Sinclair’s new endeavor is still taking shape, with one option being to convert WGN, which reaches 80 million U.S. households, into a Fox News competitor. The Tennis Channel, currently in 55 million homes, is another candidate for cannibalization. It’s also unclear if the company would be looking to program a three-hour block of news and opinion, or if it would stretch things to six hours. Either way, the suits at Fox News aren’t happy with what’s coming, one source told Politico. “I think they’re very concerned about it,” the source said of Fox. “They don’t let on, but they are.”