Sinclair Lays Off Nearly 600, Citing Pandemic's Impacts

Sinclair Broadcast Group on Wednesday announced that it will lay off 5% of its workforce, citing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company, which operates about 130 local TV stations across the U.S., reported 11,600 employees as of year-end 2020, so 5% would translate to about 580 staff.

“From local businesses and advertisers to distributors and partners, no component of our business’s ecosystem has been fully shielded from the impact of the global pandemic,” Sinclair said in a statement. “In response to this, we are currently undergoing enterprise-wide reductions across our workforce, including corporate headquarters, to ensure we are well-positioned for future success."

Sinclair has been challenged by a combination of pandemic-driven declines in advertising and sports distribution fees.

Although the election drove political advertising up to $205 million, from $23 million in the year-ago quarter, nonpolitical, “core” advertising declined to $349 million, from $433 million. 

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In addition, with live sports still limited by the pandemic, the regional sports networks (RSNs) that Sinclair acquired from Fox in August 2019 for $10.6 billion saw fees decline to $513 million from $724 million in the year-ago quarter.

To raise cash, in January Sinclair sold naming rights to the RSNs to Bally’s Corp.

Broadcast distribution revenue was up slightly, but total Q4 distribution revenues declined to $917 million, from $1.1 billion.

Total revenue for the quarter declined 7%, to $1.5 billion.

Net income for the quarter rose 21%, to $514 million, Sinclair experienced a full-year loss of $2.4 billion, largely driven by a $4.3-billion write-down for the RSN business.

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