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Sinclair pact puts CW in top 40 markets

Net's covereage now more than 90% of the country

The CW has secured affiliates in the top 40 TV markets, signing a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group that gives it stations in Minneapolis, Baltimore and elsewhere.

A pact with Sinclair was far from certain, particularly after the station group agreed in March to affiliate many of its top stations with News Corp.’s rival MyNetworkTV service.

But the CW and Sinclair eventually came to terms on eight stations that are either owned or managed by Sinclair. The pact brings the CW’s total market coverage to more than 90% of the country.

The deal also means all 25 of Sinclair’s WB, UPN and indie stations have now found a new home with either the CW or MyNetworkTV.

All but one of the CW’s Sinclair outlets are currently affiliated with the WB. They include KMWB-TV, Minneapolis; WNUV-TV, Baltimore; WLFL-TV, Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville, N.C.; and WNAB-TV, Nashville.

Also signed on are WVTV Milwaukee; WTTO/WDBB-TV, Birmingham-Tuscaloosa, Ala.; KOCB-TV, Oklahoma City; and KFBT-TV, Las Vegas. KFBT currently operates as an independent.

The CW stations in Raleigh-Durham, Nashville, Milwaukee and Las Vegas are duopolies with stations that have already signed on to MyNetworkTV.

“These WB Sinclair stations were all top performers, with KOCB the No. 1-ranked WB affiliate,” said John Maatta, chief operating officer of the CW. “That gives us an outstanding launching pad for the CW in those markets.”

Sinclair shares on Nasdaq bumped up on the affiliation news.

Also Tuesday, Sinclair announced it has struck an affiliation renewal with Fox, keeping the “American Idol” network on all 19 of its Sinclair-owned and/or -operated affils through March 31, 2012.

Thanks particularly to its deal with MyNetworkTV, Sinclair said it expected to see its broadcast revenues increase by $10 million annually, including $3.5 million in 2006.

“When the network changes occur this September, we will be in a much stronger financial and programming position than we were as WB and UPN affiliates,” Sinclair president-CEO David Smith said. “We now have what we believe to be the best programming of the WB and UPN on the CW stations, and creative new programming with a more compelling economic model on the MyNetworkTV stations.”

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