Sinclair promotes executives after announcing wage freeze

The Sinclair Broadcast Group promoted 11 key executives less than a month after announcing a wage freeze slated to begin this year for lower-level employees.

On Tuesday, Sinclair said it would promote five people within its broadcast subsidiary and six other executives to more senior-level roles. Those promotions include:

  • Antonia DeFeo to Vice President of Agency Solutions (Television)
  • Skip Flenniken to Associate Vice President of Business Development (Television)
  • Dan Gallagher to Operations Controller (Broadcast)
  • Ethan Haire to Vice President, Associate General Counsel (Broadcast)
  • Catherine Jamison to Senior Vice President of Marketing (Television)
  • Daniel Mellon to Senior Vice President of Sales Transformation (Television)
  • Derek Nance to Corporate Controller (Broadcast)
  • Paul Nesterovsky to Senior Vice President of Tax (Broadcast)
  • Michael Reed to Associate Vice President of Corporate Development (Broadcast)
  • Andrew Schnell to Associate Vice President of Corporate Development (Broadcast)
  • Jason Smith to Vice President, Chief of Staff to the President of Broadcast

The promotions come shortly after Christopher Ripley, the chief executive of Sinclair, announced its employees would be subject to a wage freeze starting in 2021. In a memo first obtained by media industry blog FTV Live, Ripley said the freeze “will impact all Sinclair employees, including myself and the entire executive team.”

But the executive promotions announced last Tuesday fall outside the scope of the wage freeze because they were handed down before the start of the calendar year, according to a source at Sinclair who spoke with The Desk on condition of anonymity. The source was unable to say which of the 11 individuals would see a pay increase as a result of their new roles.

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In mid-December, Ripley said the wage freezes were necessary across the entire company as Sinclair struggled with a shortfall in advertisement revenue across its broadcast and other properties. The decline in ad revenue has been felt widely at other companies thanks in large part to the ongoing coronavirus health pandemic, which prompted companies to pull back on ad spending and triggered similar cost-cutting moves at media companies, including layoffs.

In its most-recent quarterly report, Sinclair said it suffered a net income loss of $2.9 billion in the nine months ending September 30, 2020. The company’s total consolidated operating loss was $4.7 billion, weighed down in part by the company’s acquisition of regional Fox Sports-branded networks that it acquired from the Walt Disney Company just before the start of the health pandemic. During the pandemic, several pay TV companies — including YouTube TV and Disney’s Hulu with Live TV — dropped Sinclair’s regional sports networks.

In early July, Sinclair began its quarter with $1.3 billion in cash on hand, but that number had decreased to $633 million by the end of the three-month reported period, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission reviewed by The Desk.

In a statement published along with its most-recent quarterly earnings, Ripley said the company’s results “exceeded our expectation and guidance,” pointing to Sinclair’s ability to earn “stronger than expected political and sports advertising revenue.” But the executive admitted Sinclair’s non-political broadcast advertising business faced “challenges due to the pandemic.”

Last month, Ripley said the company expects to face significant challenges now that the political ad buy period related to the national election has ended.

“In many ways, 2021 may prove even more challenging than this past year, and we must be prepared for whatever comes our way,” Ripley said.

It will also likely prove to be challenging for Sinclair’s non-executive staff: In addition to the pay freeze, Ripley said Sinclair would soon deduct more from paychecks to cover medical insurance offered to its employees. But as a result of the freeze, Ripley said Sinclair would cover the cost of the insurance in one paycheck before the premium hike kicks in, which he said should result in employees paying less for insurance in 2021 than they did in 2020.

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