As local TV mandarins gathered in Las Vegas for todays formal kickoff of the annual NAB Show, Fox Television Stations announced an expansion of the amount of local news it broadcasts in nine major markets.
Jack Abernethy, CEO of FTS, said the addition during this year of news blocks at various times during the week will occur in New York, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Detroit, Minneapolis and Charlotte, N.C. The Fox station in Washington, WTTG, will add a half-hour of news on Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. In announcing the moves, Fox said it now broadcasts more news than any other station group, with more than 965 hours of local news a week.
“In a time when media critics are accusing large station groups of cutting back on news, we are adding more newscasts than ever with a total of more than 42 hours of local news per week this year,” Abernethy said.
Rather than media critics, however, the announcement may have had another audience: Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media is nearing a final verdict by regulators. (Sinclair today insisted media resentment over the pending merger prompted the controversy over a “must-run” segment decrying fake news that was read by local anchors and widely mocked after a video compilation by Deadspin went viral.) The other motivation for boosting the local portfolio is that it will be a key building block, along with the Fox broadcast network and Fox News, or “New Fox,” as the businesses not being acquired by Disney are known.
Over the past several months since Disney and Fox announced the landmark deal, Fox has made moves aimed at reinforcing its 28 stations, which have ranked No. 1 of any group in terms of total revenue in recent industry rankings.