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Sinclair Broadcast CEO still eyes M&A following failed deal with Tribune

The deal with Tribune Media Co. fell apart amid regulatory scrutiny, but Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. President and CEO Christopher Ripley still has consolidations on his mind.

At the NAB Show on Oct. 18, Ripley provided a general sense of how the broadcast group views the media competitive landscape, noting that more scale is needed. "It’s no secret we have been a very vocal proponent of deregulation," he said.

Ripley said the entire broadcast industry has a market capitalization of maybe no more than $10 billion but is vying for viewer attention against far larger players. "We’re now in a world where we’re competing against companies that are worth hundreds of billions of dollars." Sinclair remains focused on more consolidation within the broadcast industry as well as opportunities in cable and sports.

Sinclair owns the Tennis Channel Inc., viewership of which could benefit from more states adopting sports betting. Ripley said tennis is the second-most-wagered sport abroad, with much of the bets taking place against who scores the next point or whether the first serve is in the box, as compared to the winner of the match.

Sinclair has expressed interest in acquiring the 22 Fox-owned regional sports networks that Walt Disney Co. must divest as a condition of it gaining Department of Justice approval to acquire myriad assets from 21st Century Fox Inc. Asked after the presentation if Sinclair only wants to buy the regional sports networks in markets where the group has a station presence, Ripley said his interest is wider. "As many as we can get," he said.

Asked by the session moderator if Sinclair had any interest in buying a cable operator, Ripley said he never just says no. "For the right price, I’ll literally buy anything," he said, before noting that cable operation is not the "right value zone" for Sinclair.

Immediately following the presentation Ripley was asked whether the failure to complete the Tribune deal would impair the company’s ability to conclude future M&A deals. "It does not," he replied.

The merger cratered shortly after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission referred the deal to an administrative law judge to review the credibility of proposed station divestitures from Sinclair.