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Sinclair launches original programming division

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. is entering the original content game.

The company announced Thursday that it has launched Sinclair Original Programming, a new division of the company that will create and develop original content.

That will include entertainment shows as well as infomercials and direct response commercials. The shows will first be developed for Sinclair’s MyNet and CW channels, to air during prime time and on weekend afternoons.

“I think (Sinclair)’s the only television station owner that’s moving in this direction,” said Ed Atorino, an analyst for The Benchmark Co. who covers the broadcasting industry.

Creating original content has become more popular among online media companies like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Yahoo, which have done so with varying levels of success.

Atorino said he wonders whether other broadcast groups will follow in Sinclair’s footsteps. The move will allow Sinclair to air its own content instead of paying others for it, he said, which could be less expensive if done right.

Arthur Hasson will lead the division and is being named chief operating officer of Sinclair Original Programming. He is also the general manager of the company’s CBS, CW and MyNet affiliates in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and he will continue in that position as well.

“SOP will be in addition to the over 1,800 hours of local news programming we produce a week, our planned cable news network, Ring of Honor Wrestling, high school sports and our newly launched American Sports Network,” said CEO and President David Smith. “The media landscape is evolving and controlling distribution, as well as the content delivered through that platform, is even more imperative in order to remain competitive.”

The American Sports Network is an independent college sports initiative Sinclair announced earlier this year. The network will produce and air at least 160 NCAA Division I games each academic year.

“He has the sports programming now he’s going to get into the other stuff,” said Atorino, referring to Smith. “If he could buy the show or produce the show at not an outrageous price, he’ll come out ahead.”