Growth would help the 46-year-old Sinclair gain more negotiating leverage in the television industry, which has consolidated rapidly in recent years. Adding stations would give the company more power over cable providers, which pay to retransmit stations’ broadcasts. It could also give Sinclair a presence in most of the country’s major markets.
A deal for Tribune would also help Sinclair gird itself against growing online rivals like Netflix and Hulu, as well as content providers like CBS and the Walt Disney Company, which are themselves pushing for bigger fees from cable companies.
Sinclair had already taken steps toward being a national player in the industry by buying properties like the Tennis Channel and Comet, a science fiction network.
For its part, Tribune would gain from joining a larger corporate parent, with local television advertising sales, excluding political ads and the Olympics, flat last year and likely to drop this year.
Acquiring Tribune would give Sinclair a particular advantage over Fox: It would control the most Fox affiliates of any station owner in the country.
Concern over the potential outsize power that a bigger Sinclair would hold helped drive 21st Century Fox to explore making a bid for Tribune. Fox weighed making a joint bid with the Blackstone Group, a giant investment firm, in which Blackstone would have provided cash and Fox would have contributed its own stations.
News of Fox’s deliberations, and the anticipation of a bidding war, lifted Tribune’s stock price by nearly 7 percent. (Tribune’s shares closed at $40.29 on Friday.)
Ultimately, Fox chose not to make a bid, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Acquisitions have long been part of the strategy of Sinclair’s founding Smith family. Under the Smiths’ control, the company has spent more than $7…