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Sinclair Revs Original Programming Activity With MGM, Tornante Deals

Sinclair Broadcast Group is taking steps to leverage the considerable reach of its 162 TV stations by setting separate programming pacts with MGM-TV and Michael Eisner’s Tornante banner.

The MGM deal calls for Sinclair to launch a digital multicast channel devoted to sci-fi movies and TV shows from the MGM vault, including Bryan Fuller’s cult-fave series “Dead Like Me.” With Tornante, the Baltimore-based station group has set a joint venture to produce and distribute programs for firstrun syndication. Both deals were unveiled Monday.

Sinclair is one of the largest TV station owners in the country with outlets reaching 79 markets. Like other major TV players, the company is clearly focused on owning more of its content in order to reap the benefits of downstream licensing revenue.

The amount of digital multicast real estate that Sinclair’s stations offer has further expanded the company’s reach, although low viewership remains a challenge for those outlets that are digital offshoots of the mothership station.

The unnamed MGM channel is targeted to debut in the fourth quarter of this year, with coverage in about 30% of U.S. TV households. The channel will also be shopped to stations outside of Sinclair markets. Channels designed for digital multicast carriage have become a new form of syndication for content owners.

Sinclair’s Steve Pruett will oversee the MGM channel, with MGM execs handling programming.

The Tornante pact will focus on developing projects for the 2016 season. Tornante will oversee creative development through a Los Angeles-based team that will work with Tornante co-president Lauren Corrao, a veteran TV programmer. Tornante and Sinclair are already in business on the syndicated court show “Judge Faith,” which led the sides to expand their partnership as Sinclair hunts for more opportunity to own and distribute programming.

“We are excited to further leverage and expand our exceptionally vast and diversified portfolio at Sinclair in partnership with the Tornante Company to further secure our position as a leader in the television business and deliver new high-quality programming to our viewers,” said Sinclair president-CEO David Smith.

The initial focus will be on game shows, talk shows, court shows and comedies.

“When we met with David Smith, Steve Pruett, and team it was immediately clear that they had a vision for the future of broadcasting and our intent is to pair our expertise in developing content with their distribution capabilities to create tremendous new opportunities for both parties,” Eisner said.

In May, Sinclair also cut a deal with Discovery’s Destination America to expand distribution of its weekly Ring of Honor Wresting telecasts. Sinclair bought the grappler league in 2011.

(Pictured: Dead Like Me)

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