By Jennifer Saba
July 29 (Reuters) - Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc said it will acquire eight television stations from the Allbritton family for $985 million, the latest deal in a flurry of activity to buy local broadcasters.
Allbritton, which is also the publisher of Politico, has 9 ABC affiliated broadcast TV stations, including those that simulcast in markets throughout the United States, including Birmingham, Alabama, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. It also operates a 24-hour cable news network in Washington, D.C., considered the jewel of the portfolio.
"To buy a full-blown news operation in our nation's capital and an infrastructure that allows us to be connected to our branches of government and be at the pulse of national issues is a once-in-a lifetime event," Sinclair President David Smith said in a statement.
Sinclair's stock was up 1.5 percent at $30.27 in midday trading.
The transaction, announced on Monday, follows Tribune Co's acquisition of Local TV and Gannett Co Inc's purchase of Belo Corp.
One of the reasons for the renewed interest in TV stations is because of multi-revenue streams from advertising and from cable operators, who pay the stations to carry the channel, known as retransmission fees.
"There is a continuing shift of ad spending from print newspapers into local TV and retransmission fees," said Ed Atorino an analyst with Benchmark Co about the buying spree involving local TV stations.
"I think Allbritton was one of the last meaningfully sized groups around and David Smith grabbed it."
Baltimore-based Sinclair is the largest U.S. TV broadcasting group, with stations in Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas, according to the company.
Including the Allbritton deal, Sinclair's net revenue would have been $1.8 billion in 2012.
Moelis & Co served as financial adviser to Allbritton.