Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned network affiliates do not appear to be set to return to Sony PlayStation Vue anytime soon.
In an email to FierceCable this weekend, Sony finally responded to the broadcaster’s inflammatory rhetoric on the matter, giving no indication that it plans to return to the bargaining table.
“We strive to provide the best value and experience for our customers,” Sony spokesperson Sam Fisher said. “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we were unable to come to an agreement on terms with Sinclair for the continued carriage of their local stations.”
The broadcast retransmission dispute affects 24 stations in 23 markets. Sony has replaced the channels with on-demand programming from the stations’ respective afflicted networks.
Access to local network affiliates has become a key currency for vMVPDs like Vue, with the market crowded with more than half a dozen competitors offering very similar services.
For its part, Sinclair last week released a dismissive statement, noting, “The impasse affects all of Sony's Playstation Vue subscribers who are located in Sinclair markets, although because of the very small subscriber base that PlayStation Vue has this event will have no material impact on Sinclair.”
Sinclair is currently in regulatory process, trying to take over Tribune broadcasting and become a monolith of 230 stations covering 72% of the market.
And as Sinclair’s biting statement seems to indicate, the broadcaster doesn’t seem too concerned the impact of an ugly retrans battle on getting its mega-merger approved by the FCC and Justice Department. (Sinclair and Tribune are currently working to sell 24 stations to get the deal approved by the FCC.)
In March, Sinclair drew national criticism for centralizing editorial messaging across its channels, with local anchors across Sinclair’s national platform warning viewers of the emerging threat of proliferate “fake news.”
Then, at NAB last month, Sinclair’s top digital executive, Steve Pruett, laid out a very loose sketch for a nationally-distributed Sinclair digital platform.
Pruett said he was going to build Sinclair’s national platform “in the vision" of company executive chairman David Smith. “His vision is to build a platform both horizontally and vertically, both deep in the market and across the nation,” Pruett said.
Part of Smith’s vision may be to add a conservative bent to Sinclair’s news. Reports from the The New York Times, The Washington Post and elsewhere have indicated the company leans conservative, and a recent study by Emory University political scientists Gregory Martin and Josh McCrain found that when Sinclair buys a local station, its news shows typically begin to favor national political stories over local news and that leans conservative.
The researchers noted that viewership often declines as a result, which they said suggests Sinclair is motivated by something other than the bottom line.
Further, according to OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan site that tracks political donations, Sinclair donated $30,000 to political candidates in 2017 and so far in 2018, with 80% of that money going to Republicans.