Sinclair Embarks On ‘Broadcast TV Liberation Tour,’ Hands Out $1M In Free Antennas

Wednesday, Aug 17, 2016

After a busy summer for Sinclair, during which it was fined by the FCC for bad-faith broadcast-retransmission negotiating just before signing a multi-million dollar retrans deal with top pay-TV operator Comcast, the nation’s largest station group has embarked on a campaign to let consumers know they don’t need the pay-TV ecosystem to enjoy their local broadcast stations.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, which controls 173 network affiliates in 81 markets, has partnered with NAB-backed TV Freedom and Antennas Direct for what’s being billed as the “Broadcast TV Liberation Tour.”

According to a TV Freedom press release, the group’s tour bus will over the next two weeks visit Little Rock, Arkansas; Macon, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland; seeking to raise awareness among consumers that they “can access dozens of local broadcast TV channels via an advanced digital antenna in high-definition for free.”

The tour’s promotors say the tour has visited more than 60 U.S. cities so far and handed out more than a $1 million worth of broadcast antennas for free.

“We are proud to be working with Sinclair TV stations at each tour stop to provide TV antennas to so many people seeking to access their local news, lifeline weather coverage and the most popular entertainment programming on television for free,” said Richard Schneider, president of Antennas Direct, in a statement.

Of course, with retransmission fees set to reach $10.6 billion by 2020, and the nation’s leading station owner spearheading that growth, it’s puzzling just what Sinclair is trying to liberate its customers from.

For its part, TV Freedom said it’s just going where the viewers are — well, at least a few of them, anyway.

Citing GfK research, the lobbying group said the percentage of Americans who get their TV primarily from broadcast antennas is up from 15 percent to 17 percent year-over-year.

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