SInclair’s Charge! shifts to WLS-TV under new ABC-owned station deal

Allen Media Group’s This TV is out as contract expires

In a move that could read as an April Fools’ joke, Sinclair Inc. announced Monday it would pay ABC’s eight owned-and-operated stations to carry its digital network Charge! on its over-the-air dot-three tiers (as in 7.3, 11.3, etc.)

The deal is unusual as Sinclair agreed to pay an unspecified license fee for carriage, giving them an additional four million over-the-air viewers and 3.73 million cable subscribers.

“We are thrilled to launch Charge! and broaden our partnership with ABC Owned Television Stations”, said Lee Schlazer, Sinclair’s SVP of distribution. “Sinclair continues to grow our multicast networks and securing Big 4 network row positioning for the launch of charge! on all eight ABC powerhouse stations was a key strategic initiative.”

Charge features off-network procedural dramas including Chips, Without A Trace Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and CSI: Miami.

The deal continues Sinclair’s strategy of getting its digital channels wider distribution, including prime multiplex slots in major cities where Sinclair doesn’t own stations including top-tier markets such as New York and Los Angeles, where ABC owns stations.

The move is effective Monday (April 1) with Charge replacing Allen Media Group’s This TV on the ABC-owned stations, including WLS-TV in Chicago (7.3) as the channel’s contract with ABC expired Sunday. Three months ago, Sinclair struck a deal with CBS to carry several Sinclair-owned multicast networks including Charge on CBS-owned WBBM-TV (2.5) and KCAL Los Angeles (9.3) to replace Circle, which shifted to a FAST channel. In those markets, Charge is being replaced by sci-fi-themed Comet, also owned by Sinclair. 

Both Comet and Charge have seen year-to-year ratings increases. With the latest round of upgrades, both channels should see even more ratings growth.

As for This, ABC’s decision to drop the channel came after a format change shortly after they signed on to carry the multicast network in 2021, dropping all programming provided by former owner MGM (who was recently acquired by Amazon) and relying heavily on Entertainment Studios shows, low-rent movies, and infomercials. This originally aired movies and programming from the MGM Library under its previous joint ventures with Weigel and Tribune.

Comet and Charge are also available on several streaming services including YouTubeTV, Fubo, Sling, and their respective websites.

This is the latest change in the digital subchannel space. On Tuesday, Merit Street Media launched on TBN’s dot-two channels, streaming on its website and through Amazon Fire, Roku, and Apple TV.

[Keep an eye on this space as this article could be updated with more info in the next few days. – T.H.]


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