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TV Station Owner Sinclair Jumps Into Podcasting; Hires Richard Cooke To Lead Audio Effort.

Sinclair Broadcast Group may be best known as one of the biggest television companies in the country. But it has also invested heavily in digital, launching a free national streaming television service, STIRR. Now Sinclair is setting its sights on audio with the hiring of podcast veteran Richard Cooke to lead the effort. As VP of Audio Programming for Sinclair, Cooke will be focused on growing the company’s news and sports business in podcasts, audio device platforms and other areas of audio distribution.

Sinclair Executive VP/Chief Digital Officer Kevin Cotlove said the move into podcasting is part of Sinclair’s “continued focus on digital audience and revenue growth” and “delivering new types of storytelling to our users.”

Cooke joins Sinclair from podcast studio Cadence13 where he spent the past nearly five years as VP of Programming and Development. At Cadence13 Cooke oversaw the launch and growth of dozens of podcasts across a variety of content categories. Prior to his time at Cadence13, Cooke launched the podcast division at Fox Sports. He has also worked as a producer at ESPN across radio, TV, and digital. He started his audio career as an on-air personality for iHeartMedia in Hartford, CT.

“I could not be more excited to join the Sinclair family to help guide our audio strategy,” said Cooke in the announcement. “Sinclair has long offered premium content across a variety of verticals. I’m looking forward to utilizing audio and podcasting, one of the fastest growing mediums for content, to continue expanding our offerings to our audience.”

The podcast move is a return to audio for Sinclair, which has owned radio stations from time to time through the years. Most recently it exited radio with the sale of a four-station Seattle cluster --including hot AC “Star 101.5” KPLZ, “Northwest News Radio” KOMO-FM &AM (97.7, 1000), and “Talk Radio 570” KVI -- to Lotus Communications for $18 million last year.

Sinclair does not need to look far to see the cross pollination potential of local television and podcasting. Fellow TV station owner Tegna jumped into the podcast business in 2019 with the launch of Vault Studios which has allowed it to leverage the local newsrooms it operates to create 13 true crime podcasts pulled from the TV archives. Tegna then expanded its focus to sports when it bought Locked On Podcast Network for $13.8 million in January 2021. It has since launched about a dozen new podcasts covering NCAA college football and basketball programs, several of which overlap with fan interest in Tegna local television markets.

The cross-promotion helped Locked On’s audience grow 48% during 2021 with total audience of more than 115 million podcast listens and views. YouTube is a growing part of its reach. Since the launch of Locked On’s first YouTube channel in May 2021, the work has expanded to 118 active channels and it says it now attracts more than three million views per month. To grow its video reach, Locked On will also be integrated into Tegna station’s streaming apps for Roku, Amazon Fire TV and additional platforms later this year.

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