1994 United States broadcast TV realignment

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The 1994 United States broadcast television realignment consisted of a series of events (primarily affiliation switches between television stations) that resulted from a multi-million dollar deal between the Fox Broadcasting Company – commonly known as simply Fox – and New World Communications, a broadcasting group that owned several VHF television stations affiliated with major networks, primarily CBS.

The major impetus for the changes was to improve local coverage of the fledgling network's new National Football League television package. As a result of various other deals that followed as a result of the affiliation switches, most notably the buyout of CBS by Westinghouse, the switches constituted some of the most sweeping changes in American television history. As a result of this realignment, Fox ascended to the status of a major television network, comparable in influence to the Big Three television networks (CBS, NBC and ABC). Nearly 70 stations in 30 media markets throughout the United States changed affiliations starting in September 1994 and continuing through September 1996.

NFL on Fox[edit]

Main article: NFL on Fox

For some time, Rupert Murdoch, chief executive officer of the Fox network's then-parent company News Corporation, had wanted a major-league sports presence for his network. He thought that landing a live sports broadcasting package would elevate Fox to the level of ABC, CBS and NBC, the other national broadcast networks in the United States at the time.

In 1987, the network bid for Monday Night Football, then the NFL's crown-jewel program, but the offer was rejected. Six years later, Fox stunned the sports and TV worlds by acquiring partial rights to the NFL. The package – covering four seasons of games involving teams in the National Football Conference, as well as Super Bowl XXXI, a package previously owned by CBS – cost Fox $1.58 billion. CBS, then run by the cost-cutting Laurence Tisch, had reportedly bid only $290 million and was unwilling to even approach the Fox offer.

At the time of Fox's bid, most of its affiliates were lower-powered UHF stations. As Fox put together its new sports division to cover the NFL, it wanted to affiliate with VHF stations that had lower channel numbers (channels 2 to 13), more established histories, and carried more value with advertisers.

New World Communications deal[edit]

The deal affected WAGA-TV in Atlanta, who switched to Fox after a longtime affiliation with CBS.

On May 23, 1994, months after completing the NFL contract, Fox agreed to purchase a 20-percent stake (a $500 million investment) in New World Communications, a media company controlled by investor Ronald Perelman.[1][2] The following stations were part of the deal:

Existing New World stations[edit]

Stations that were acquired from Argyle Television[edit]

Stations that were acquired from Citicasters[edit]

Exceptions[edit]

Several stations were not kept or left out of the deal:

  • KNSD channel 39 in San Diego was sold directly to the NBC network — Fox at the time had a VHF affiliate, XETV channel 6. WVTM was kept by New World for the time being, then the two were sold for $425 million in 1996.[3] WVTM has since been sold.
  • New World, which had just acquired both Argyle and Citicasters could not keep WBRC and WVTM under the FCC rules of the time. WBRC and WGHP were placed in a blind trust and later sold to the Fox network. Both stations have since been sold.[4][5]
  • WSBK was left out, as Fox reacquired WFXT in Boston. Viacom bought the station, upon which it became a charter member of UPN in 1995.
  • Two Citicasters stations were left out. WKRC-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio (an AFC market) and WTSP in the Tampa Bay market were held back from the deal. New World opted to keep WTVT, which had higher ratings and a better broadcast coverage area, which — unlike WTSP — included Sarasota.

NFL connection to deal[edit]

The key to the deal was that Fox upgraded its stations in several markets. Before the deal, of the 14 NFC teams at the time, only four – the Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins – were located in markets with VHF Fox affiliates. The Fox stations in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. are three of the network's original six owned-and-operated outlets. The San Francisco Bay Area affiliate, KTVU (channel 2), was owned by Cox Enterprises at the time, and would not be acquired by Fox until 2014.[6]

Most of the stations involved in the New World deal were located in markets with teams from the NFC, which was at the time considered the more prestigious of the two NFL conferences for a variety of reasons. In particular, NFC teams were located in nine of the ten largest television markets at the time with the lone exception being Boston, whose only NFL team, the New England Patriots, played in the American Football Conference. Also, most of the NFC teams existed before the formation of the old American Football League and therefore contain longer histories, rivalries and traditions. During this time, the NFC was also in the midst of a 13-game winning streak against the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Many of the stations slated that switched to Fox were CBS affiliates in markets where NFC teams were located, thus fans would continue to see at least their team's road games on (the same) local VHF stations.

NFC teams in markets related to deal

AFC teams in markets related to deal

KTBC and WITI served markets containing significant fan bases for nearby NFC teams. KTBC had aired Cowboys games for years (including during preseason), while WITI had broadcast Packers games to its Milwaukee audience since becoming a CBS affiliate in 1977 (through 1994, the Packers also played some games in Milwaukee).

In 1995, a year after the Fox switches, St. Louis received an NFC team when the Rams relocated from Los Angeles following the 1994 season, making KTVI the eighth station (and sixth in an NFC market) among the stations involved in the switchover and bringing the total number of NFC teams with VHF Fox affiliates to nine. That same year, the Carolina Panthers joined the NFL as an expansion team, which made WGHP another satellite "home" station for an NFL team as the Panthers are based in Charlotte, which is directly south of the Piedmont Triad region where WGHP is situated.

It should be noted that, because of the time it took for the FCC to approve the NewsCorp investment in New World (as well as waiting for affiliation contracts to expire), the old, "lame duck" affiliates actually carried the NFL on Fox games for most of the 1994 season. For example, most Cowboys games were on KDAF in Dallas and KBVO in Austin, and the Lions were seen on WKBD-TV, while WCGV-TV in Milwaukee carried Packers games until WITI's affiliation deal with CBS ended at the start of December 1994, the only break in WITI's carriage of team games since 1977. As late as the 1995 season, New Orleans Saints games were on WNOL, not WVUE (see the Burnham Broadcasting section below).

Burnham Broadcasting[edit]

See also: SF Broadcasting

SF Broadcasting was a venture with Savoy Pictures established in 1994. Fox held no voting stock in SF but supplied 58% of the original capital.[7] Weeks after the New World deal, SF bought the four stations of Burnham Broadcasting:

The deal gave Fox upgrades for the home markets of two more teams: the Packers and the New Orleans Saints, giving Fox VHF affiliates in eleven of the fifteen NFC markets.

The second season WLUK carried the Packers (1996), the team won the Super Bowl, the first time Fox carried the game.

Repercussions[edit]

The affiliation changes officially commenced on September 12, 1994, when the first two stations involved in New World's affiliation agreement with Fox – WJW-TV and WDAF-TV – joined the network (New World had finalized its acquisition of KSAZ-TV and WDAF only three days before the latter station switched from NBC to Fox), and formally concluded on September 1, 1996 when WBRC officially joined Fox as an owned-and-operated station.

With the Big Three stations suddenly in need of new affiliates in markets from Phoenix to Milwaukee, major affiliation shakeups began to occur, mostly along station group lines.

Scripps[edit]

The E.W. Scripps Company had been a loser in the New World deal. Three Scripps-owned Fox affiliates were suddenly without a network. Two of the company's crown jewels, WXYZ-TV in Detroit and WEWS-TV in Cleveland, were being heavily courted by CBS. ABC and Scripps renewed an affiliation agreement that brought ABC to four other Scripps stations, including two with displaced affiliations:[8][9]

  • NBC affiliate WMAR-TV in Baltimore, replacing WJZ-TV;
  • CBS station WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, replacing WKRC-TV and reversing an affiliation switch which occurred in 1961;[10]
  • KNXV-TV in Phoenix, slated to lose Fox due to the New World deal, replacing then-market leader KTVK;[11] and
  • WFTS in Tampa, who was also scheduled to lose Fox through the New World deal, replacing WTSP.

Scripps additionally affiliated KSHB-TV in Kansas City, picking up the displaced NBC affiliation.

Group W[edit]

The former offices of Philadelphia's KYW-TV, which became a CBS station in 1995 due to Westinghouse's deal with CBS.

The recruitment of WMAR as the new ABC affiliate in Baltimore made Group W, the broadcasting division of Westinghouse and owner of WJZ-TV, extremely concerned. Group W had already been in talks with several networks – including CBS, NBC, and Fox – for new affiliations for its stations prior to the announcement of the New World deal. These talks accelerated once the deal was announced.[12] But now, ABC had just been wrenched from its longest-tenured affiliate. In addition to renewals for two stations that were already CBS affiliates, the remaining three Group W stations jumped to the network. Aside from WJZ, NBC affiliates WBZ-TV in Boston and KYW-TV in Philadelphia joined CBS. WBZ and WJZ changed at the end of 1994, and KYW moved networks on September 10, 1995. NBC found a new affiliate in Boston, former CBS outlet WHDH-TV.

Group W's corporate parent, Westinghouse Electric, would buy CBS in 1995.[13][14]

Philadelphia[edit]

But in Philadelphia, CBS and NBC were suddenly seeing red. CBS already owned a station in Philadelphia — WCAU-TV. At one point, New World considered buying WCAU, which would have turned that station into a Fox affiliate (and thus also continue broadcasting Philadelphia Eagles games, which it had done since 1950). Additionally, Fox had bought WGBS-TV (channel 57) as a result of rumors that Paramount's WTXF-TV (the market's Fox affiliate) was switching to UPN, but later canceled those plans and made a bid to buy the station if New World passed up the opportunity. WTXF was eventually sold to Fox with Paramount buying WGBS-TV (and renaming it WPSG).

To get an outlet in Philadelphia, NBC and CBS traded stations. NBC gave KUTV in Salt Lake City; KCNC-TV in Denver; and the stronger channel 4 facilities in Miami to CBS, which in turn gave NBC WCAU and the weaker channel 6 facilities in Miami. All stations involved switched on September 10, 1995; WTVJ and WCIX additionally swapped channels, with the latter changing call signs to WFOR-TV. NBC affiliated with KSL-TV in Salt Lake City and KUSA-TV in Denver instead.

Birmingham[edit]

One of the most convoluted affiliation switches took place in Birmingham, Alabama. WBRC was a Fox-owned ABC affiliate until September 1996, giving ABC a chance to look for new affiliates. WCFT-TV and WJSU-TV, the respective CBS affiliates in the neighboring markets of Tuscaloosa and Anniston, merged and became the combined ABC affiliate for Birmingham and central Alabama. (In addition, because reception of both stations were poor in center city and they were outside the Birmingham market at the time, the owner of the two stations purchased low-power WBMA-LP and also made it an ABC station, in fact being the main station of the cluster.) WNAL, the former Fox affiliate for Gadsden, became the CBS affiliate for northeast Alabama before eventually becoming the Pax network affiliate for Birmingham. WTTO and WDBB, the Fox affiliates for Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, became independent stations before eventually affiliating with the WB Television Network.

In 1998, the three markets of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Anniston were collapsed into one market which grew twelve market sizes, from 51 to 39.[15]

Impact on CBS[edit]

One of the few VHF stations available for CBS was Phoenix's first television station, KPHO-TV, whose former transmitter atop Westward Ho is pictured here.

As expected, CBS bore the worst brunt of the changes. The network had already developed a stodgy and overly budgeted image under Laurence Tisch, who had become CEO in 1985. Tisch was already notorious for having made deep cuts at CBS News and by selling off major portions of the company, such as Columbia Records to Sony. When CBS lost the NFL to Fox, the problems accelerated, as the "Tiffany Network" struggled to compete with NBC and ABC in the ratings, even though the network still finished ahead of Fox. CBS eventually recovered and, by 1999, was the most-watched network until it was surpassed by ABC in 2000 and NBC in 2001 before retaking the lead again in 2002. NBC took the lead again in 2003 and 2004 before CBS retook the lead once again in 2005.

CBS' problems were especially evident in the recruiting of new affiliates. As a direct result of the New World-Fox alliance, only six new CBS affiliates were VHF stations:

  • In the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Gaylord Broadcasting-owned KTVT (channel 11) became the new CBS affiliate after KDFW switched to Fox (and KTVT would eventually be purchased by CBS itself four years after the switches took place). KDAF (channel 33), an original Fox-owned station, became a WB affiliate, and is now affiliated with the CW Television Network.
  • As a by-product of the KTVT deal, another new VHF CBS affiliate at the time was sister station KSTW (channel 11) in the Seattle-Tacoma area, replacing KIRO-TV (channel 7).[16][17] This affiliation only lasted two years though, as KIRO-TV returned to CBS in 1997 following a sale of the station from Belo Corporation to Cox Enterprises.
    • In 1997, Fox planned to trade KSAZ to Belo for KIRO, but that fell through.[18]
  • In Phoenix, CBS moved to former independent station KPHO-TV (channel 5), which was CBS's original Phoenix affiliate. As part of the deal with KPHO parent Meredith Corporation, CBS moved to WNEM-TV (channel 5), replacing WEYI-TV (channel 25) in the Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, Michigan area. WEYI-TV took on WNEM's NBC affiliation as a result. CBS protected its relationship with Meredith's Kansas City station, KCTV, through this deal as well.
  • CBS took on WKRC and WTSP in Cincinnati and Tampa, solving their affiliation puzzles in those markets.

CBS found itself in extremely undesirable situations in three major markets:

  • In Atlanta, CBS almost purchased WVEU, which broadcast on channel 69, the highest available channel in the U.S. during the later era of analog television. Eventually, they reached a deal with WGNX (channel 46, now WGCL-TV), then owned by Tribune Broadcasting. WGNX was slated to become Atlanta's WB affiliate prior to agreeing to terms with CBS.[19][20][21] (CBS ended up buying WVEU, now known as WUPA, for the UPN and later the CW networks.) The market's former Fox O&O, WATL (channel 36), shelved its plans to launch a news department (it had even hired a news director) and became a WB affiliate.
  • In Milwaukee, CBS was threatening to have to import the signals of CBS-owned stations WBBM-TV in Chicago or WFRV-TV in Green Bay, or its affiliate station WISC-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, via cable as a result of its difficulty finding a new affiliate to replace WITI. Milwaukee's new CBS station, WDJT-TV (channel 58), had a general syndicated schedule, with some ethnic and time-brokered religious programming mixed in, along with very low cable carriage in the market. The station's owners, Weigel Broadcasting, had its roots in running Chicago independent station WCIU-TV, and at the time never had any station of theirs affiliated with a major network. WDJT joined the network just one week before the switch, after an attempt by CBS to buy religious station WVCY-TV (channel 30) fell through.[22] The station then built a new transmitter in 1999 which has transmitting power equal with the market's other five commercial stations. Part of the switches resulted in several of CBS' remaining sports properties, most notably the Daytona 500, not being carried over some southeastern Wisconsin cable systems in 1995 until carriage contracts were signed. WDJT scrambled to find larger studio space and start a news department.
  • In Detroit, finding a replacement affiliate proved especially difficult for CBS. Unable to lure the market's remaining major network station, NBC affiliate WDIV to switch affiliations, CBS also deal with most of southeastern Michigan's remaining independent stations displaying either disinterest or an unwillingness to enter into negotiations with the network. In an eleventh-hour deal reached mere days before WJBK-TV was due to drop CBS programming, CBS purchased WGPR-TV (channel 62) from an African-American group of Masons and changed its name to WWJ-TV. CBS had preferred to reach a deal with another station, WADL (channel 38), but broke off negotiations when WADL's owner began making unreasonable demands. WGPR previously had the weakest signal of any UHF station in Detroit, but CBS invested heavily in the station and significantly upgraded its facilities. The former Fox affiliate, WKBD-TV, also joined UPN, and is now a CW affiliate co-owned with WWJ-TV, which is strangely the lesser partner in the duopoly; the other CBS duopolies have the CBS affiliate as the senior partner[19]

Other station group deals[edit]

  • McGraw-Hill, which owned two ABC affiliates and two CBS affiliates (one displaced), signed a group affiliation deal with ABC. KMGH-TV joined on September 10, 1995; KERO-TV in Bakersfield, California didn't become an ABC affiliate until 1996.[23]
  • Sinclair Broadcast Group and Belo both reaffiliated their ABC affiliates, with one exception; KOVR (ABC, then CBS) and KXTV (CBS, then ABC) swapped affiliations in 1995.
  • Allbritton Broadcast Group (re)affiliated all of its stations with ABC, including its Florida upstart, WJXX channel 25 in Jacksonville and simulcaster WBSG in Brunswick, Georgia; WCIV in Charleston, South Carolina; and its new Birmingham station cluster.[24]
  • Several displaced stations did straightforward swaps; KSHB took NBC in Kansas City, while WBAL returned to the NBC network in Baltimore after an 11-year stint with CBS.[25][26]

Other effects[edit]

  • Because of the Westinghouse deal involving WBZ-TV, CBS had to sell WPRI-TV in Providence, Rhode Island, which it had just acquired months before. That purchase was the catalyst of an additional affiliation switch, as WPRI's former alliance with ABC moved to Freedom Communications-owned WLNE, which was previously a CBS station. WPRI's signal carried from Rhode Island over into most of the Boston area whereas WBZ-TV's Boston signal traveled all the way into almost all of the state of Rhode Island. FCC regulations at the time prevented common ownership of stations whose signals overlapped and would not even consider a waiver for stations with large overlapping coverage areas.[27]
  • A similar situation would take place in Evansville, where in the wake of WTVW's switch to Fox in 1995, the ABC affiliation would instead go to CBS affiliate WEHT, who in turn would give up the CBS affiliation to WEVV, which was the Fox affiliate. On July 1, 2011, WEVV's digital subchannel became the new Fox affiliate, as Fox has dropped WTVW.[28]
  • In San Diego, UPN affiliate KUSI-TV (now an independent station) tried unsuccessfully to take the Fox affiliation away from XETV, which was based in Tijuana, Mexico, citing FCC regulations preventing Mexican-licensed stations (or any foreign station outside of the United States) from airing live American sporting events without an FCC-approved license, but Fox was eventually granted the permit. XETV switched to the CW in August 2008 after losing its Fox affiliation to KSWB-TV.[29]
  • In Phoenix, KTVK turned down CBS's offer to affiliate with the then-ABC affiliate in anticipation of ABC renewing its affiliation agreement with the station. However, after the Scripps deal went through resulting in ABC's move to KNXV, KTVK was disappointed and eventually began to gradually phase out its ABC offerings. On its final day as an ABC affiliate, KTVK only had ABC's prime-time lineup, major soaps, and sports programs remaining.
  • Prior to switching on December 11, 1994, WAGA began turning down some weaker CBS programs on a week-by-week basis.[30]
  • Before the Scripps deal, ABC purchased its affiliate WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan and NBC affiliate WTVG in Toledo, Ohio as a contingency plan in the event that its Detroit affiliate WXYZ-TV flipped to CBS. While WXYZ eventually remained with ABC, the deal went through. However, for two months, ABC had to run WTVG (which as WSPD-TV was an ABC primary affiliate from 1958 to 1970) as an NBC affiliate while the latter network searched for a new affiliate (which turned out to be Toledo's former ABC affiliate, WNWO-TV). ABC's purchase of WJRT-TV was a factor in dislocated NBC affiliating with former CBS affiliate WEYI-TV. WJRT and WTVG have since been sold back to their original owners.[31]
  • In Honolulu, NBC, who lost KHON in the SF/Fox deal, was hoping to offer the affiliation to ABC affiliate KITV at first, but after KITV was sold to Argyle and opted to stay with ABC instead, NBC went with former Fox affiliate KHNL.
  • Several first-run syndicated programs, such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Wheel of Fortune,Jeopardy! and Entertainment Tonight were dropped by some of the New World stations, who had aired them in favor of lower-budget syndicated programs or newer shows such as Access Hollywood and Judge Judy. In several of the markets affected, at least one of these shows now airs on their former network's new affiliate. For example, two Fox affiliates involved in the Burnham/Savoy deal, WVUE in New Orleans and Green Bay's WLUK, now air both Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! KHON continued to carry Oprah up until her show ended in May 2011 and continues to carry Wheel.
  • WGPR-TV's purchase though was controversial; it had gained fame for being the first TV station in the United States owned by African-Americans, and now it was to be sold to a major network instead of a minority-owned broadcaster. Spectrum Detroit Inc., an investment group led by Lansing-based real estate investor and broadcaster Joel Ferguson, sued to block the CBS purchase and gain control of the station.[33] However, the company could not stop CBS from moving its programming to WGPR; a court ruled in favor of CBS the following year.
  • As with WDJT, Weigel also found itself with another network switch in the South Bend, Indiana market in 1995, when full-power ABC affiliate WSJV, owned by Quincy Newspapers, switched to Fox. Weigel's W58BT, a low-power translator station of Chicago's WCIU which also carried Fox programming, ended up becoming an ABC affiliate almost by default due to the lack of another full-power station allocation in the market (the only other choice being owned by a religious organization with no intent to sell),[34] causing the same cable entanglements and reception problems as had happened in Milwaukee, though the market had fringe access to several other ABC stations, including Chicago's WLS-TV and Battle Creek's WOTV. W58BT eventually became a licensed low-power operation with the calls WBND-LP, but did not start a limited news operation until 2008 and a full locally-based news organization in 2011. Because of the weakness of the station in the market, WBND, along with their sister MyNetworkTV and CW low power stations, were to be sold to Schurz Communications, the founding owners of CBS affiliate WSBT-TV in late 2008. However, FCC inaction and local fears of Schurz holding a virtual monopoly over South Bend media led to the deal being called off in August 2009. (The deal was legal, because all three Weigel stations are low-powered, for which there are no current FCC ownership limits.)
  • Another situation would take place in Terre Haute, where in the wake of WBAK-TV's (later WFXW) switch from ABC to Fox, left the market that with fringe access to several other ABC stations, including Indianapolis' WRTV, WEHT in Evansville, and WICS/WICD in Champaign and Decatur, Illinois.

Repercussions for the networks[edit]

As previously mentioned, CBS took the hardest hit from the switches, with inferior affiliates in several major markets.. NBC became the most-watched network in the United States, as it not only experienced the fewest effects of the switchover, but also benefited from a strong slate of programming at the time (including Friends, Frasier, Seinfeld, ER and the Dateline NBC franchise). They would remain in first until 1999, when the AFC package went to CBS, boosting that network's ratings.

Fox, with its newfound prestige in major markets and on a national level, became able to be considered on par with the big three networks, creating the modern "Big Four" television picture.

Local newscasts[edit]

The primary plus for the new Fox stations collectively was an increase in the amount of news covered on these stations, which Fox had high interest in doing as the network had (and still to this day has) no national newscasts. Over time, the former Big Three stations which had aired newscasts for years expanded them along with many original Fox stations. Morning newscasts on Fox stations gradually expanded to compete with the national morning shows aired by the Big Three.

By the time of the Fox buyout of New World, some stations in the New World station group were still under-performing. Observers cited "a reluctance of station managers to embrace the new network and a tendency to cling to conservative news and promotional styles."[35] Indeed, many New World Fox affiliates received major image overhauls between 1996 and 1998, such as WTVT and WAGA dropping their heritage Eyewitness News branding and KSAZ dropping its "sunset 10" logo after nearly fifteen years.

New World's Fox affiliates saw mixed results with their newscasts:

  • After switching to Fox, WTVT in Tampa lost its number one position in the market to NBC affiliate WFLA-TV, which was the only major-network station in Tampa not affected by the switch.
  • In Cleveland, WJW-TV fell from first place in its market. The problems were especially evident following the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, as Fox had no news division; Fox News Channel did not exist until the following year. WEWS (which shunned CBS via the ABC-Scripps deal) would overtake the station as the market leader, while also-ran NBC affiliate WKYC-TV also began to post higher ratings for the first time in decades. That October, WJW controversially dropped their long-running NewsCenter 8 brand in favor of ei8ht IS NEWS, which was short-lived upon Fox's purchase of the station several months later, consigning WJW to the standard Fox 8 brand. WJW has since regained the ratings lead for most of its newscasts.
  • KTBC in Austin, long the market's dominant news station (and sole VHF station), fell to the bottom of the ratings behind two UHF stations, NBC affiliate KXAN, and ABC affiliate KVUE.
  • Phoenix's NBC affiliate, KPNX, which was the only station unaffected by the affiliation switches in the Phoenix area, went from being the market's third-place station to its top-rated one.
  • Some New World stations, however, have maintained their ratings dominance. In Birmingham, WBRC's primetime newscast is considered one of the nation's highest-rated newscasts. Additionally, WDAF in Kansas City has finished number one in several time slots, including at 9:00 pm.
  • Another key positive was also in regards to the morning news shows on the new Fox affiliates, most of which perform competitively and even place first in the ratings, unlike the constant flux and upheavals with CBS's morning shows and schedules.

Additionally, some of the new Fox affiliates, perhaps in appealing to Fox's younger-skewing audiences, moved many older news personalities to daytime broadcasts or released them entirely from their news teams. Some of these personalities eventually wound up on other stations, such as the new Big Three affiliates.

Unfortunately, many of the new Big Three affiliates were not as lucky. As these were former Fox affiliates (or independents) that did not have newscasts at the time, almost all of them had to give in to launching them to back up the nationally-aired newscasts provided by the networks. Generally, the stations that continue to air newscasts to this day have finished in third or fourth place behind their VHF competitors. However, many of these stations — such as Scripps' KNXV, WFTS, and KSHB, and Raycom's WOIO (in the latter's case after making a switch to tabloid journalism that has garnered it national attention) — have seen gradual growth in their ratings.

Still, other new affiliates that launched newscasts experienced no permanent success. In late 1995, Evansville CBS affiliate WEVV moved its 9:00 pm newscast (which began in 1992) to 10:00 pm and added newscasts in the noon and 5:00 pm time periods. However, due to declining ratings, the station's news department was shut down in June 2001. In Detroit, WWJ-TV premiered a newscast in fall 2001 produced by sister station WKBD. Both the WKBD and WWJ newscasts were canceled in late 2002 under an agreement made by WXYZ-TV to produce WKBD's news. Therefore, WWJ became the largest-market major-network affiliate, and the only O&O of any major network, to have no newscasts. From 2006 to 2008, WWJ-TV made light of this fact by using a slogan, Where No News is Good News, for promoting programming during periods where there would usually be newscasts. In 2009, local news returned to WWJ, with a morning newscast produced by the Detroit Free Press.[36] the program was cancelled in December 2012 due to low ratings.[37]

Two ABC affiliates, KDNL-TV in St. Louis and WXLV in the Piedmont Triad region, also experienced difficulty. KDNL's news department lasted for six years until its cancellation, which was widely blamed on a transmitter problem, and is now the fifth-rated station in the St. Louis market, behind CW affiliate KPLR-TV, and only maintains a nominal sports presence and Good Morning America weather cut-ins provided by Columbus, Ohio sister station WSYX almost 400 miles to the east. KDNL's current position as one of ABC's weakest affiliates, perhaps the weakest among Top 50 markets stands in sharp contrast to KTVI, which was one of ABC's strongest stations. In 2011, local news returned to KDNL through a news share agreement with St. Louis' local NBC affiliate KSDK[38] – which ended on December 31, 2013,.[39] WXLV's newscast was canceled under orders of its owner Sinclair (through its controversial News Central division) due to poor ratings. WXLV also had run newscasts since becoming an ABC affiliate in September 1995 until the shutdown of its news department on January 11, 2002. WXLV began airing newscasts produced by Time Warner Cable's News 14 Carolina in 2012.[40]

In 1994, when Fox started airing NFL games, only a few Fox affiliates had local newscasts. Fox then demanded that its affiliates start local newscasts in the run up to the launch of Fox News Channel in mid-1996 and their connecting affiliate news sharing service (now known as Fox NewsEdge). Since then most Fox affiliates that didn't have already have local news have premiered local newscasts, usually starting with a 10pm news and adding other time periods over time (most medium and small markets, however have had a local Big Three affiliate produce the newscasts for the Fox affiliate, though a few of those Fox stations with such an agreement have ended those partnerships to start producing their own newscasts). Currently, the largest market whose Fox affiliate has no local news is WUTV in Buffalo, whose program mix aims to target viewers across the Canadian border, in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario.

Fox Kids[edit]

When Fox made the affiliation agreement with New World, nearly all of the 12 stations that switched to Fox chose not to carry Fox's Monday-Saturday Fox Kids children's programming due to interest in airing more local news, which is uncharacteristic of a broadcast network affiliate. Big Three affiliates are required to air their network's children's program block (although the Big Three only aired their shows on Saturdays compared to Fox Kids' six).

Upon its switch to Fox, WGHP in Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, owing to it being acquired by the network outright, initially cleared Fox Kids; however, by the spring of 1996, Fox had decided to allow its owned-and-operated stations to drop Fox Kids if another station in the market was interested (as the New World stations had done), and at that time Fox Kids moved to WB affiliate WBFX (now WCWG). WBRC in Birmingham, which until then had also planned to air Fox Kids, likewise permitted former Fox affiliate WTTO to continue airing Fox Kids even after it went independent (eventually joining The WB as well). These moves, along with WBRC remaining an ABC affiliate for its first six months under Fox ownership and the eventual acquisition of New World, made it the fourth network which had O&Os that did not air all network programming (after CBS, as WCAU did not air CBS' Sunday morning cartoons during 1978; ABC, as WPVI-TV continued preempting one hour of the network's programs after its owner bought the network in 1986; and NBC, as it bought WTVJ in 1987, but could not switch it from CBS to NBC until 1989). WTTO dropped Fox Kids in 2000, with the renamed WTWB-TV following suit a year later.

In St. Louis, religious station KNLC, owned by the New Life Christian Church and new outlet for Fox Kids after the switches, chose to air ministry messages in place of commercials; the church's reverend, Larry Rice, refused to show commercials during Fox Kids programming.[41] Uncomfortable with messages on controversial topics such as abortion being shown during Fox Kids programming, Fox ended up moving Fox Kids to KTVI, which remained the only ex-New World station airing 4Kids TV, though aired it two hours earlier than other stations to allow for a morning newscast airing at 9 am. Although six stations (KSAZ, WGHP, WJW, KTBC and WAGA) had rejected Fox Kids programming (in its Fox Kids, FoxBox and 4Kids TV iterations), none of them filled the timeslots with local news on Saturday morning, instead filling the time with paid programming, local home selling presentation shows; and E/I programming acquired via syndication. Even non-Fox O&Os passed Fox Kids off to another station in the market, usually an independent or smaller network affiliate, such as KABB to KMYS in San Antonio; KSAZ to KTVK and KASW in Phoenix; and KMPH to KFRE in Fresno.

Because these Fox stations denied clearance of 4Kids TV, 4Kids TV was merely a syndication package, despite Fox continuing to advertise in promos airing during select Fox primetime shows that 4Kids TV programming was part of the network. If Fox limited 4Kids TV to air on Fox stations only, affiliates could have been given the choice to broadcast the lineup around local news, as the case is with ABC and CBS.

All Fox-owned stations that did not air 4Kids TV aired syndicated educational programs that meet E/I guidelines (unlike those seen on 4Kids TV) in its place, either following a newscast or in place of it, such as Safari Tracks and Beakman's World, so as to not violate FCC regulations requiring commercial broadcasters to air a certain amount (three hours) of children's programming (deemed educational and informative) each week. (As of 2012, Fox MLB coverage included one half hour of E/I programming seen across the network: the last version of This Week in Baseball.[42] This was replaced by MLB Player Poll in 2013; that show has since been canceled.)

The 4Kids TV programming block ended its run on December 27, 2008. Fox gave two of the block's four hours back to the stations, and began to program a two hour block of paid programming under the branding Weekend Marketplace. Many of the stations which took 4KidsTV in lieu of the local Fox stations chose not to take Weekend Marketplace, along with those Fox stations, and the block sees low clearance outside of O&O's and Fox stations which took 4KidsTV.[43][44]

On September 13, 2014, Fox restored a children's program block to its schedule through an agreement with Steve Rotfeld Productions, Xploration Station, which features live-action programs focused on the STEM fields that will fulfill the FCC's educational programming guidelines. However, since the block airs in the two hours previously occupied by Weekend Marketplace, Fox stations carrying the block continue to acquire syndicated E/I programs to count towards the federally-mandated three-hour E/I programming quota.[45] The block is primarily carried by Fox owned-and-operated stations as well as Tribune Broadcasting's Fox affiliates (including those that declined to carry Fox's earlier children's programming efforts and Weekend Marketplace),[46] however like Weekend Marketplace and its predecessor children's program blocks, many Fox stations outside of those owned by Fox Television Stations and Tribune have declined to carry Xploration Station due to existing E/I programming commitments with syndication distributors (by design, Xploration Station is structured as a syndicated block), resulting in the block being carried on a CW or MyNetworkTV affiliate, or an independent station in most areas.

Canadian repercussions[edit]

Until the affiliation switches, Canadian television providers could pick up (per a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rule, commonly referred to by the Commission now as the "4+1 rule") three American commercial networks and those three only if they also committed to carry Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) public television, with exceptions made to allow additional stations for areas that could pick them up over the air (thus, some British Columbia towns were cleared for Fox from KAYU-TV Spokane, Washington, and the Windsor-Essex County region received nearly the full lineup of Detroit stations on cable and over-the-air, while towns in Alberta were denied such an importation of signals). This obscure rule dated to the late 1970s. In June 1994, the CRTC was not willing to modify this rule,[47] but by September, due to pressure from cable operators, it cleared Canadian cable companies to pick up Fox without having to bump a Big Three network for it.[48]

Additional changes were in store for Canadian cable companies that carried the affiliates from Detroit; while they were still able to keep WJBK (which was switching to Fox), thanks to the new rules, they also had to add CBS, often from WWJ-TV, the new affiliate in the market.

Post-switchover changes[edit]

Fox continued to upgrade its stations in at least two unrelated deals struck later:

  • In 1995, News Corporation/Fox purchased ABC affiliate WHBQ-TV in Memphis, Tennessee from Communications Corporation of America. WHBQ-TV was part of the RKO General broadcasting empire, which had collapsed in the late 1980s due to corruption and perjury.
  • In 2002, KMSP-TV in Minneapolis, the home market of the Minnesota Vikings, returned to the Fox network after seven years as a UPN station (while WFTC-TV was the Fox affiliate). Fox had purchased KMSP as part of a group acquisition of Chris-Craft Industries' television station group a year earlier. (A similar maneuver occurred that year in Portland, Oregon with the same networks, when Meredith Corporation swapped KPDX and KPTV's affiliations.)

Another switch took place on August 1, 2008: XETV, whose presence in the San Diego market discouraged Fox from switching the affiliation to KNSD, switched with KSWB-TV and became a CW affiliate. KSWB was one of 16 charter CW affiliates owned by Tribune Broadcasting.[49] Although it might been seen a downgrade on the surface, as KSWB's UHF analog position was Channel 69, while XETV was on analog Channel 6, the market has heavy cable penetration and has the majority of their stations on UHF, which then brand according to their dominant cable channel slot rather than their broadcast channel designation; as such, the station brands itself as Fox 5 and only uses their over-the-air channel position in legally-required promos, their PSIP virtual channel and a short sweep in their newscast logo of a "Fox 69" logo. In regards to the NFL, it is also not a major problem, as the Chargers play in the AFC and thus most of their games are on KFMB-TV (ironically, they were on KNSD from 1977–97).

On the other hand, CBS saw an affiliate downgrade from VHF to UHF in an unrelated transaction, which occurred in the Jacksonville, Florida-Brunswick, Georgia market, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Being in the AFC, most Jaguars game are on CBS.) In the summer of 2002, Post-Newsweek Stations, which owns WJXT, terminated that station's longtime affiliation with CBS in a dispute over compensation. The new affiliate became WTEV-TV, which had been the local outlet of UPN (which was then co-owned with CBS). WJXT broadcasts on channel 4; WTEV on channel 47[50][51] The new UPN affiliate became Fox affiliate WAWS, on a secondary basis.[51] Both WAWS and WTEV were sold by Clear Channel to Newport Television, but because of FCC regulations forbidding the ownership of two of the four top-rated stations in a market (Clear Channel had purchased WTEV when it was a low-rated UPN station), Newport sold WTEV to High Plains Television, though Newport continues to operate the station through a joint sales agreement and shared services agreement.[52] Due to the network switch in Jacksonville, nearby Gainesville, Florida's WB affiliate WGFL (channel 53), also switched to CBS in order to keep the network available in that area, sending the WB affiliation to a digital subchannel of WGFL (now the area's MyNetworkTV affiliate, as well as low-power WMYG-LP).

Only one other AFC team plays home games in a market with a UHF CBS affiliate: the Cleveland market, home of the Browns, has WOIO (channel 19) as its CBS affiliate (though in technicality in the digital age WOIO transmits over Channel 10 but retains their virtual channel 19). WOIO was Cleveland's charter Fox affiliate before the market was involved in the New World deal - and has even held the teams' preseason game rights twice; from 1988 to 1995 as a Fox affiliate, and again in 2005 as a CBS affiliate. However, WOIO only carries the CBS games and news coverage of the Browns, due to conflicts between the Browns and WOIO's news department over coverage about personal issues involving team players and ownership, and WKYC, the market's NBC affiliate, carries the bulk of the team's preseason games and other Browns programming.

In 2011, two Indiana markets affected by switches in the 1990s were hit once again due to a spat between Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Fox. Fox was pulled off of Nexstar's owned or operated stations WTVW and WFXW. WTVW became an independent station; WFXW became WAWV-TV and reverted to an ABC affiliation. Fox was picked up by digital subchannels in both markets.

On July 1, 2013, two Charlotte, North Carolina stations switched affiliations. CW affiliate WJZY was purchased by News Corporation from the Capitol Broadcasting Company in April 2013 and became a Fox O&O. Former Fox affiliate WCCB has since taken WJZY's place as the market's CW affiliate, this switch is considered to be an upgrade for The CW as WCCB broadcasts on UHF channel 18,[53][54] and also has a news department, which WJZY did not have until January 2014 as a Fox O&O.

On July 29, 2013, Allbritton announced that it would sell its seven television stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group, in an attempt to shift its focus toward its co-owned website, Politico.[55] As part of the deal, MyNetworkTV affiliates WABM and WMMP would move programming from WBMA-LD and WCIV, respectively, to a digital subchannel of those stations and sell the WCIV license assets (now with the WMMP call sign) and the combined WCFT-TV/WJSU-TV license assets to Howard Stirk Holdings. In the case of WABM, it brought the Birmingham market a full-time ABC affiliate for the first time since the affiliation switch.

Long-term impact[edit]

Growth of Fox Sports[edit]

The affiliation switches helped elevate Fox to major network status on par with its older competitors. As of 2014, its sports division has expanded to include Major League Baseball[56] and NASCAR.[57] In addition, the National Hockey League aired on Fox from 1995 to 1999[58] and the Bowl Championship Series (except for the Rose Bowl) was on the network from 2007 to 2010. Other former properties include Formula One races (now held by NBCSN) and the Cotton Bowl Classic (which will move to ESPN starting with the 2015 game). Fox Sports' coverage also has expanded beyond terrestrial television with several cable networks, led by its Fox Sports Net chain of regional sports networks and Fox Sports 1.

In the fall of 2011, regular season college football games from the Pac-12 and Big 12 Conferences,[59][60] and the Big Ten and Pac-12 championship games were added,[61] as well as the Ultimate Fighting Championship with four fight cards airing per year.[62] England's FA Cup final came to the network on May 11, 2013. In August 2013, Fox Sports acquired rights to broadcast the three major open championships of the United States Golf Association, including the U.S. Open, starting in 2015.[63] Current Fox Sports properties seen over-the-air also include exclusive coverage of the Daytona 500 and the final game of the UEFA Champions League. In addition, the World Superbike Championship races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been shifted to FS1.

Rise of Fox in primetime[edit]

Fox's entertainment programs have also benefited from the heavy promotion they received during the sportscasts. Some of the beneficiaries include shows already on Fox at the time, such as The Simpsons, as well as newer programs like American Idol and 24. In fact, Idol was the number one rated primetime program on all networks for eight consecutive seasons, from 2003-04 to 2010-11. This is the longest such streak in U.S. television history.

The resilience of CBS[edit]

While CBS did eventually recover, its recovery is partially linked to, ironically, reacquiring NFL rights in 1998 when it took over rights to the AFC from NBC. The last year NBC had rights to the AFC saw the Denver Broncos, an original AFL team, defeat the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, which aired on NBC and ended a 13-year drought against the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Around the time CBS took over the rights to the AFC saw the trend of the 1980s and 1990s reverse, in that the AFC became the dominant conference over the NFC. The New England Patriots dynasty in the 2000s (decade) in the only AFC-only top-ten market also contributed to the ratings surge. In fact, the primary stations for both the Broncos and Patriots are the same as when NBC carried the AFC (until 1995) - KCNC-TV in Denver, and WBZ-TV in Boston (KUSA and WHDH-TV carried those teams' games from 1995–97).

In addition, the current AFC deal also saw CBS indirectly acquire rights to air games played by the Pittsburgh Steelers, which air locally on KDKA-TV (which was a CBS O&O by the time NFL rights were reacquired and has long been one of CBS's strongest stations) and often get the highest ratings for an NFL team on television due to the team's rabid fanbase on a national level (coincidentally, before the AFL-NFL merger, Steelers road games had aired on KDKA as part of the network's deal to air NFL games [home games could not be televised at all during this period, even if they did sell out]).

Current statuses[edit]

On July 17, 1996, News Corporation announced that it would acquire New World outright, making the latter company's 12 Fox-affiliated television outlets owned-and-operated stations of Fox.[64] The deal was completed on January 22, 1997. Today, six of the Fox stations owned by New World which changed affiliations (KDFW, WAGA, WJBK, KSAZ-TV, WTVT and KTBC) are owned and operated by 21st Century Fox – a company created through the July 2013 separation of News Corporation's entertainment (including Fox and its related broadcast and cable television assets, but excluding News Corp's Australian television properties) and publishing assets. Fox Television Stations, the division of 21st Century Fox that controls the stations, announced its intent on June 13, 2007 – under News Corporation ownership – to sell nine of its stations, six of which are former New World stations (WJW, KTVI, WDAF-TV, WITI-TV, WBRC and WGHP; the other stations Fox had announced its intention to sell were KDVR (channel 31) in Denver, KSTU in Salt Lake City and WHBQ-TV in Memphis). Of these nine, only KTVI and WITI are located in NFC markets (KTVI by way of the St. Louis Rams; and WITI through the Green Bay Packers' unique two market area encompassing Green Bay and Milwaukee). Subsequently, on December 21 of that same year, Fox agreed to sell eight of the stations – all except WHBQ – to Local TV, a subsidiary of Oak Hill Capital Partners. Local TV at the time of the purchase was relatively new as it was formed on May 7, 2007 to assume ownership of the broadcasting division of The New York Times Company.[65] This group deal closed on July 14, 2008.[66]

WHBQ remained on the market until January 16, 2009 because Local TV could not buy it, for the same reason Newport sold WTEV; Local TV owns Memphis' CBS affiliate, WREG-TV (channel 3), Fox therefore exempted WHBQ from the Local TV sale as it would have violated FCC rules barring same-market ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations by one company; WHBQ remained a Fox O&O as a result. Ultimately, on October 8, 2014, Fox traded WHBQ and Boston's WFXT to Cox Media Group in exchange for the San Francisco duopoly of KTVU and KICU.[6] Local TV later swapped WBRC to Raycom Media in exchange for Richmond, Virginia CBS affiliate WTVR-TV (channel 6).[4] The Local TV stations were operated under a joint management agreement with Tribune Broadcasting, which provided web hosting, technical and engineering services to the Local TV stations, along with news sharing among all of the stations, and the Local TV/Tribune stations make up the nucleus of the Antenna TV digital subchannel network, which carries classic television programming and films.[67] Tribune announced that it would purchase Local TV outright on July 1, 2013, for $2.75 billion; this deal added the seven former Fox O&Os to the six Fox affiliates Tribune already owned, making that company the largest owner of Fox-affiliated stations by total market coverage (surpassing Sinclair Broadcast Group – which will remain the largest Fox affiliate owner by total number of stations owned and/or operated).[68] The sale was completed on December 27, 2013.[69]

Fox no longer owns any of the former Burnham stations. Savoy/Fox (SF) sold the stations in 1997 to Silver King Broadcasting (later USA Broadcasting, which would later go out of business after it sold its independent stations to Univision Communications in 2001 to form the nucleus of the present-day UniMás network), which would later sell them to Emmis Communications to 1998. Emmis later sold WLUK and WALA to LIN TV and KHON to the Montecito Broadcast Group, which subsequently sold KHON to New Vision Television (ironically, LIN purchased the New Vision stations in 2012[70]). It took until May 2008 for Emmis to finally find a buyer for WVUE, when the Louisiana Media Company, a new media holdings group founded by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, purchased the station.[71] WVUE's sale process had been made more difficult in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which greatly affected its New Orleans viewing area (the sale closed on July 18, 2008; 18 months later, the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, a game shown on CBS). On November 20, 2013, Raycom Media announced it would operate WVUE under a shared services agreement, with Louisiana Media retaining ownership of the station.[72] All of the stations involved in the New World and SF Broadcasting deals, as well as other related affiliation transactions involving Fox (except for those affected by the network's 2011 dispute with Nexstar Broadcasting Group), remain Fox affiliates.

Westinghouse bought CBS in August 1995 after the affiliation deals, making all of the CBS-affiliated Group W stations CBS O&Os. The announcement came just one day after Capital Cities/ABC, parent company of rival ABC, was to be acquired by The Walt Disney Company.[13] Viacom bought Westinghouse/CBS in 1999, which created duopolies in several markets between O&Os of CBS and UPN. Viacom and CBS split in 2006, with the current CBS Corporation retaining the company's broadcasting assets, including UPN.[73]

Effect in Top 10 markets[edit]

To this day, Washington, D.C. is the only Top 10 market from 1994 outside of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago not to have its major network affiliations (outside of network shutdowns and debuts) affected during and since the switches (Atlanta, Dallas and Detroit were affected by the New World deal, while Boston and Philadelphia were affected via the Westinghouse deal). While Houston was also not affected by the switches at the time and its major network affiliates remain the same, it was not a Top 10 market when the switches took place, as Houston only became a Top 10 market in 2005-06, surpassing Detroit.

San Francisco was also unaffected by the 1994 switches, as Westinghouse-owned KPIX-TV was already an affiliate of CBS. In 2002, however, the Bay Area's longtime NBC affiliate, KRON-TV, became an independent station after a bitter dispute between new KRON ownerYoung Broadcasting and NBC; after Young outbid NBC to purchase the station from its original owner Chronicle Publishing, NBC demanded that Young run the station in a fashion similar to that of an NBC O&O as a condition of renewal of its affiliation; Young Broadcasting refused these demands along with the affiliation renewal. NBC then struck an affiliation deal with, and soon thereafter bought, San Jose station KNTV, which was airing The WB at the time after ending a long-time affiliation with ABC two years before, due to ABC O&O KGO-TV claiming market exclusivity for the network in San Jose. KNTV had been serving the Monterey Bay area (50 miles south of San Jose) as its ABC affiliate, more so than San Jose; KGO was added to cable systems in the Monterey Bay area as compensation for the loss. (KSBW-TV, the NBC affiliate, put ABC on a digital subchannel for Monterey-Salinas market viewers, which launched on April 18, 2011.)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]