Bill O’Reilly, the former Fox News anchor, has been negotiating for a position with the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation’s largest television-station owner, according to two sources familiar with the talks.
Sinclair, known for its conservative commentary, is continuing with the talks despite the sexual harassment cases that cost O’Reilly his job at Fox earlier this year, the sources said. Last week, The New York Times reported that O’Reilly settled a $32 million sex harassment claim against him by a former legal analyst, Lis Wiehl. The sources said the news does not appear to have sidelined the talks.
“They took a pause but it didn’t really change anything for them,” one of the sources said.
O’Reilly has said the Times article was designed to hurt him in the marketplace. He told The Times that the report was “politically and financially motivated.”
One of the sources said Dave Smith, the executive chairman of Sinclair, was introduced to O’Reilly after O’Reilly left Fox in April. A month later, Sinclair denied reports that it was pursuing O’Reilly. The company did not return calls from NBC News about the latest round of talks.
One of the sources, who is close to O’Reilly, said on Tuesday that the two sides were “about midway” through negotiations. A second source explained that Sinclair is considering putting O’Reilly on its local stations.
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Sinclair would pretty well have to start a cable-news channel. Currently they hold a gaggle of stations, such as KOMO in Seattle that are affiliates of mainstream networks (in KOMO’s case, ABC. What they’re doing now is leaning on local newsrooms to cede time for pro-Trump national editorials. The same stations are also airing Sharyl Attkinson’s weekly Sunday program that blends politics with heartland news features.
Sinclair could presumably de-affiliate their assorted stations. But I doubt they could do it all at once. Instead it would probably be at contractually defined dates. But those stations are cash cows so, again, it probably makes more sense to follow the example of FOX and start a stand-alone cable service.
Then again, maybe Trump would have the FCC take a run at a bunch of individual stations across the US in order to strip the licences and award them to Sinclair. The Donald has mused about that kind of scenario against NBC only to discover the licence holders are the scores of affiliates.
Stay tuned. One way or another Sinclair will find a way to battle Rupert and his boys for right-winger eyeballs.
I believe Sinclair has indicated O’Reilly would be featured on their local stations, NOT a cable operation.