With the FCC reinstating the “UHF Discount” today, it makes it one step more likely that Sinclair Broadcasting will acquire Tribune. If you are an ROH fan, this could be huge.
What is going on here? Basically, there had been a cap on how much of a television footprint one company could have with their broadcast stations. SBG had already met that cap and could not acquire any more stations. Part of the reason why is UHF stations (those above channel 13 over the air), were no longer counted at a “discounted rate”, even though the viewership, and in turn the footprint, is obviously much lower.
Now, even though there are many rumors that SBG will acquire Tribune, it is not a slam dunk. There will be several bidders for the assets of a company that owns 42 local broadcast stations, WGN America, a studio and has holding in other cable outlets.
So, what happens if Sinclair does acquire Tribune? This could play out in several permutations but let’s look at two disparate paths:
1.Sinclair utilizes a tremendous amount of cash and resources to acquire Tribune and re-prioritizes their holdings. This means that SBG decides they are going to focus on their core assets (television station ownership) and divest of non-core assets like Ring of Honor. The buzz for a sale of ROH might build once again as Sinclair frees up cash to fund the acquisition and new salaries that come along with the purchase.
2.Ring of Honor is once again along for the ride as Sinclair acquires more assets and will benefit from new growth and exposure.
Key in the acquisition is television stations in the largest media markets for Sinclair: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Currently, ROH is only on the periphery of these markets with Comet TV. Is it a slam dunk that ROH would air on these stations? It depends on the directives of the parent company. If it is not mandated that the stations find a slot for ROH, they may not air. In a market like New York, it may be more lucrative to run paid programming (Stairmaster or Foreman Grill, anyone?) than even to run a show that costs the station “no money” like an ROH. Even if the large market stations pick up ROH, it doesn’t mean that ROH can now run in bigger buildings or have exponential growth in popularity. How many house shows is Championship Wrestling from Hollywood able to run? Exactly.
WGN America could air an ROH show. WGN has a long history of running wrestling programing on and off. Again, if the directive of Sinclair is to provide a slot to ROH, it will run. Likely, if the station manager was a fan of wrestling and/or thought it was viable programming, WGN would be running the show right now as Joe Koff has made no secret of the fact that he’d love another shot at a national TV outlet.
If the sale of Tribune to Sinclair does happen, it will make for very interesting times for Ring of Honor. Television is not the panacea that it once was for pro wrestling programming but greater access to large market stations and a nationally distributed cable outlet could lead to huge things for Ring of Honor.
All comments here are speculative and for entertainment purposes only and no misrepresentation of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Ring of Honor or related brands is intended. Full disclosure: I am a Sinclair Broadcasting Group (SBG) shareholder.