When you think of Sean Hannity, it’s a pretty safe bet you think of Fox News at the same time. After all, the conservative host has been one of the most recognizable faces of the cable network for nearly 22 years — but that could soon change.
Up-and-coming media giant Sinclair Broadcasting may be working to “poach” Hannity from his well-known position.
Executives at Sinclair, which operates around 200 over-the-air television stations in America, are keen to launch a new network that would compete with Fox for conservative-leaning political news.
While it’s unclear if Hannity has been approached directly, key members of his team are being tempted into jumping ship.
“(Sinclair chairman David Smith) has met in the last few months with the executive producer of Hannity’s top-rated show on Fox, Porter Berry, according to two people familiar with the meeting,” reported Politico.
“Berry is not the only person connected to Hannity who Smith has gone after. The Sinclair boss has also been wooing Sean Compton, a Tribune Media programming executive who is close friends with the Fox host,” the outlet reported.
Other well-known Fox employees including Greta Van Susteren and Jeanine Pirro have also reportedly had meetings with Sinclair executives, according to Politico.
“There has been considerable speculation over which hosts Smith would nab to front his effort and, last fall, he held discussions with former Fox star Bill O’Reilly, though the talks were ultimately broken off,” the report said.
“Hannity typically does not reveal details on his contract with Fox, including when it expires and whether it has any out clauses, but said on Twitter in 2016 that he was under contract for four more years, meaning it will expire in 2020.”
Sinclair chairman David Smith hasn’t hidden the fact that he wants to compete with Fox News. One idea that has been touted is a conservative news block that would air in primetime on Sinclair-owned stations, providing several hours of right-leaning news and commentary daily.
Sinclair’s huge network of television stations means that around 40 percent of American households may receive the programming. Unlike Fox News, those stations are over-the-air and free to view, without requiring a cable subscription.
However, the broadcast giant could also use some of its cable channels to provide a more direct competitor to Fox.
“Smith has not settled on where his primetime news block will air, but one likely option is WGN America, a cable network which Sinclair would acquire as part of its deal with Tribune, and which reaches 80 million homes,” Politico said.
Those big numbers mean that a bidding war for famous talent — including Hannity — might not be out of the question. Which network would end up on top after the dust settles is anyone’s guess.
If Hannity did decide to take a lucrative offer and leave Fox News, it would be a coup for the competing network. It would also force Fox to search for a new face to represent its conservative commentary in the coming decade.
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