1994 United States broadcast TV realignment
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 February 1997.
In concurrence with, though not related to the switches, two new television networks launched around the same time – The WB Television Network and the United Paramount Network (UPN) – both owned by major film and television studios in partnership with owners of several large- and mid-market independent stations, which resulted in a significant reduction in the number of unaffiliated television stations in the U.S.
- 1 NFL on Fox
- 2 New World deal
- 3 Burnham Broadcasting
- 4 Repercussions
- 5 The new fifth and sixth networks
- 6 Post-switchover changes
- 7 Long-term impact
- 8 Current statuses
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
NFL on Fox
For some time Rupert Murdoch, chief executive officer of Fox's then-parent company News Corporation, had wanted a major league sports presence for his network. Murdoch 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 had placed a bid for the rights to Monday Night Football, then the NFL's crown-jewel program; this offer was rejected. Six years later, on December 20, 1993, Fox stunned the sports and television worlds by acquiring partial broadcast 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 (minus the rights to that particular Super Bowl) whose rights were previously held 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 Fox's offer.
At the time of Fox's bid, most of its affiliates, and some of its owned-and-operated stations (except those in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Salt Lake City) were lower-powered UHF stations, many of which were never affiliated with a major network prior to joining Fox. At the time of the deal, Fox did have a few affiliates that had switched to the network from either NBC, ABC or CBS (most notably WSVN (channel 7) in Miami, which switched to Fox in January 1989 as a byproduct of former network partner NBC and CBS's respective purchases of longtime CBS affiliate WTVJ and Fox charter affiliate WCIX – now WFOR-TV) or had once been affiliated with one or more of those networks earlier in their histories. 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 deal
On May 23, 1994, months after completing the NFL contract, Fox agreed to purchase a 20% stake (a $500 million investment) in New World Communications, a media company controlled by investor Ronald Perelman. The following stations were part of the deal:
Existing New World stations
- Atlanta: WAGA-TV (channel 5), affiliated with CBS
- Boston: WSBK-TV (channel 38), an independent station
- Cleveland: WJW-TV (channel 8), affiliated with CBS
- Detroit: WJBK-TV (channel 2), affiliated with CBS
- Milwaukee: WITI-TV (channel 6), affiliated with CBS
- San Diego: KNSD (channel 39), affiliated with NBC
- Tampa: WTVT (channel 13), affiliated with CBS
Stations acquired from Argyle Television
- Austin, Texas: KTBC-TV (channel 7), affiliated with CBS
- Birmingham: WVTM-TV (channel 13), affiliated with NBC
- Dallas: KDFW-TV (channel 4), affiliated with CBS
- St. Louis: KTVI (channel 2), affiliated with ABC
Stations acquired from Citicasters
- Birmingham: WBRC-TV (channel 6), affiliated with ABC
- High Point, North Carolina: WGHP (channel 8), affiliated with ABC
- Kansas City, Missouri: WDAF-TV (channel 4), affiliated with NBC
- Phoenix: KSAZ-TV (channel 10), affiliated with CBS
ABC affiliates WKRC-TV (channel 12) in Cincinnati and WTSP in St. Petersburg, Florida (channel 10) – both owned by Citicasters – were left out of the New World deal, though neither station would have been of any benefit to Fox. In WKRC's case, the Cincinnati Bengals aired on NBC and WLWT at the time. Ironically, the Bengals' games now air on WKRC, now a CBS affiliate, as CBS now owns rights to the American Football Conference, of which the Bengals are a member. And in WTSP's case, New World already owned WTVT, which was the higher-rated of the two stations at the time and had a broader signal coverage of the Tampa Bay area as WTSP's transmitter was located farther north in Hillsborough County than the area's other stations (WTSP was short-spaced in this manner to avoid interference with the signal of WPLG in Miami), which forced ABC – then WTSP's network partner – to maintain an additional affiliate in Sarasota (WWSB) to serve the entire market.
Not all of the stations involved switched to Fox:
- Because of Federal Communications Commission rules of the time, New World could not keep WBRC and WVTM; WBRC was placed in a blind trust and would later be sold to Fox directly, as would WGHP. The two would later be sold to Local TV, which then sold WBRC to Raycom Media, after less than a year of ownership.
- As a side effect of the sale of WBRC, WVTM – which New World kept – retained its NBC affiliation; KNSD also stayed with NBC, as Fox already had an affiliate on the VHF band in San Diego, XETV (channel 6). Both WVTM and KNSD were directly sold to NBC for $425 million in May 1996. Today, NBCUniversal owns KNSD (the company previously held a 76% controlling interest in that station until January 2013, when LIN Media sold its 24% stake in KNSD and KXAS-TV (channel 5) in Dallas-Fort Worth to NBCUniversal). WVTM would later be sold along with three other smaller NBC-owned stations to Media General in April 2006.
- WSBK did not join Fox because the network would reacquire its existing affiliate, WFXT (channel 25). WSBK would later be sold to Viacom and became a charter affiliate of UPN, which launched on January 16, 1995. WSBK would have had minimal benefit to Fox as the other New World stations were VHF affiliates of either of ABC, NBC or CBS while WSBK was a UHF independent station that, unlike its sisters, did not have a news department (a move of the Fox affiliation to WSBK would have also resulted in an affiliate downgrade as WFXT broadcast on UHF channel 25, while WSBK – the lower-rated of the two stations by a small margin – operated on channel 38).
NFL connection to deal
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), has been owned by Cox Enterprises since 1963.
Most of the stations involved in the New World deal were located in markets with teams in the NFC, which was considered the more prestigious of the two NFL conferences at the time for a variety of reasons. In particular, NFC teams were located in nine of the ten largest television markets at the time with the exception of 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, therefore fans would continue to see at least their team's road games (should NFL blackout rules apply for home games that did not reach the league's designated ticket sales threshold to allow them to be broadcast in the team's primary market) on local VHF stations.
NFC teams in markets related to the deal:
- Arizona Cardinals (KSAZ-TV)
- Atlanta Falcons (WAGA)
- Dallas Cowboys (KDFW and KTBC)
- Detroit Lions (WJBK)
- Green Bay Packers (WITI)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (WTVT)
AFC teams in markets related to the deal:
KDFW, KSAZ, WAGA, WJBK and WTVT all served primary markets for NFC teams, while KTBC and WITI served markets containing significant fan bases for nearby NFC teams. KTBC's Austin viewing area had long been a key secondary market for the Cowboys and had aired the team's preseason games for years, in addition to airing most Sunday afternoon Cowboys games through CBS. Meanwhile, WITI served as the CBS affiliate for the Milwaukee side of the Packers' unique two-market area (with then-CBS O&O WFRV, channel 5, being the Green Bay affiliate) since switching from ABC in 1977; also until 1994, the Packers had played select home games in Milwaukee, where the team's flagship radio station is based. In Cleveland, WJW only aired Sunday afternoon NFC road games against the Cleveland Browns, with NBC affiliate WKYC-TV (channel 3) airing every other Sunday afternoon Browns game that was not blacked out prior to the team's temporary deactivation from 1996 to 1998. Ironically, in Kansas City, most Chiefs games had aired on WDAF before the switches took place through NBC's broadcast rights to the AFC (as of 2014, WDAF only airs regular season Chiefs games in which the team hosts an NFC opponent; most other regular season games air on CBS affiliate KCTV (channel 5)).
In 1995, a year after the Fox switches began, KTVI became the eighth station (and the sixth in an NFC market) among those involved in the switchover and the ninth NFC market overall with a VHF Fox affiliate when the Rams relocated to St. Louis from Los Angeles following the 1994 season; the station would switch to Fox in time for the start of the Rams' first season in St. Louis. That same year, the Carolina Panthers joined the NFL as an expansion team, which made WGHP – whose home market, the Piedmont Triad, lies directly south of the Panthers' primary home market of Charlotte – another satellite "home" station for an NFL team. However, the Panthers played their first season at Memorial Stadium on the campus of Clemson University, which is located in the Upstate region of South Carolina, while their new stadium in Charlotte was under construction; most Panthers Sunday afternoon games in its inaugural season would air locally in that market on WHNS (channel 21).
Because of the time it took for the FCC to approve the News Corporation 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 aired on KDAF (channel 33) in Dallas and KBVO in Austin, and the Lions were seen on WKBD-TV (channel 50) in Detroit, while WCGV-TV (channel 24) in Milwaukee carried Packers games until WITI's affiliation deal with CBS ended in December 1994, the only break in WITI's carriage of the team's games since it rejoined CBS from ABC in 1977. In contrast, most Chiefs games aired on WDAF-TV while Fox's NFL coverage aired on KSHB-TV (channel 41), also until that same December, while KTVI aired Monday Night Football while KDNL-TV (channel 30) aired Fox NFL Sunday before the two stations traded networks in time for KDNL to air its first Super Bowl. As late as the 1995 season, New Orleans Saints games were on WNOL-TV (channel 38), not WVUE (see the Burnham Broadcasting section below).
Just weeks after completing the New World deal, Fox announced another purchase, this one of Burnham Broadcasting. The stations involved were:
- Green Bay: WLUK-TV (channel 11), affiliated with NBC
- Honolulu: KHON-TV (channel 2), affiliated with NBC
- Mobile, Alabama: WALA-TV (channel 10), affiliated with NBC
- New Orleans: WVUE (channel 8), affiliated with ABC
Fox would become minority owner of these stations; majority partner Savoy Broadcasting was a minority-owned communications firm. 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, though in Green Bay it was a return to VHF as that market had gone through a smaller shuffle in 1992, when longtime Packer flagship WBAY-TV (channel 2) lost the rights to most Packers games when it affiliated with ABC in the wake of its former network partner, CBS's purchase of WFRV-TV (channel 5). SF Broadcasting, as the Savoy Pictures-Fox joint venture was known, was founded in March 1994. It was capitalized with $100 million – $58 million from Fox, $41 million from Savoy, and $1 million from the chairmen of Savoy Pictures. Fox had no voting stock (if it did, the stations would be counted against the FCC ownership total); instead, Savoy Pictures chairmen Victor A. Kaufman and Lewis J. Korman held all the stock.
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; although it technically concluded on February 9, 1997 when upstart WJXX (channel 25) launched as Jacksonville, Florida's new ABC affiliate. Overnight, the landscape of local television in many areas changed as viewers were confronted with new network affiliations on their familiar stations. In some cases, the transition was straightforward, as the old Fox affiliates (all UHF stations) in Kansas City, St. Louis, Austin, Cleveland and the Piedmont Triad simply took up the previous affiliation of the new Fox affiliate. KSHB-TV replaced WDAF-TV as Kansas City's NBC station, while KDNL-TV and WXLV-TV (channel 45) respectively aligned with ABC in St. Louis and the Piedmont Triad. KBVO (channel 42, now KEYE-TV) in Austin and WOIO (channel 19) in Cleveland affiliated with CBS.
The largest affiliation swap occurred in Birmingham, a market that expanded to include three other central Alabama cities – Tuscaloosa, Gadsden and Anniston – as a result. Six stations changed affiliations because of WBRC's move from ABC to Fox. WCFT-TV (channel 33) and WJSU-TV (channel 40), the respective CBS affiliates for Tuscaloosa and Anniston, merged and became the combined ABC affiliate for central Alabama. Because reception of both stations was poor in Birmingham proper, the owner of the two stations purchased low-power W58CK (channel 58, now WBMA-LD) and also made it an ABC station, in fact becoming the main station of the cluster despite being the only one that was not a full-power outlet. WNAL (channel 44), the former Fox affiliate for Gadsden, became the CBS affiliate for northeast Alabama before eventually becoming the Pax TV (now Ion Television) O&O for Birmingham as WPXH-TV, effectively making WIAT (channel 42) the only CBS affiliate in the area again. WTTO and WDBB (channels 21 and 17), the Fox affiliates for Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, became independent stations before eventually affiliating with upstart network The WB.
A similarly complicated affiliation swap occurred in Phoenix (involving only four stations), because of KSAZ-TV's switch from CBS to Fox; this resulted in longtime independent station KPHO-TV (channel 5) rejoining CBS after having disaffiliated from the network 41 years earlier in 1953 and KNXV-TV (channel 15), the market's former Fox affiliate, joining ABC as part of a deal between the network and its owner, E. W. Scripps Company (see section below). Longtime ABC affiliate KTVK (channel 3), lost its status as a Big Three affiliate due to KNXV having landed ABC, and would become a WB affiliate shortly afterward. Making the situation more complicated was the fact that the swap was not seamless as it was in the other affected markets: KNXV and KSAZ's respective affiliation contracts with Fox and CBS expired on different dates. As a result, KSAZ temporarily became an independent station when KPHO joined CBS on September 12, 1994 as Fox's contract with KNXV (which became a primary Fox/secondary ABC affiliate due to KTVK's decision to drop certain network programs, see below) would not expire until December 15, 1994.
Scripps/ABC affiliation deal
The affiliate switches also led to another deal involving the E. W. Scripps Company, the parent company of KSHB-TV. Scripps' two largest stations, ABC affiliates WEWS (channel 5) in Cleveland and WXYZ-TV (channel 7) in Detroit, were being courted by CBS to respectively replace WJW and WJBK. In agreeing to keep ABC on WEWS and WXYZ, Scripps required ABC to switch the affiliations of four of the company's non-ABC affiliates:
- NBC affiliate WMAR-TV (channel 2) in Baltimore, replacing WJZ-TV (channel 13);
- CBS station WCPO-TV (channel 9) in Cincinnati, which effectively reversed a 1961 affiliation switch with WKRC-TV.
- Displaced UHF Fox affiliates KNXV-TV in Phoenix and WFTS-TV (channel 28) in Tampa, which respectively replaced KTVK and WTSP.
In Phoenix, ABC went from market-leading KTVK to lower-rated KNXV, while Citicasters-owned WKRC-TV and WTSP were fairly competitive ABC affiliates that performed satisfactorily, if not placed first, in the Nielsen ratings at the time. In anticipation of the possibility that WXYZ-TV did flip to CBS, ABC purchased its nearby affiliate WJRT-TV (channel 12) in Flint, Michigan and NBC affiliate WTVG (channel 13) in Toledo, Ohio as a contingency plan. NBC eventually signed with displaced ABC affiliate WNWO-TV (channel 24) in Toledo.
Westinghouse/CBS affiliation deal
However, the switchovers did not especially go over well with Westinghouse Broadcasting (popularly known as Group W). In Baltimore, Group W's WJZ-TV was one of ABC's strongest affiliates in contrast to perennial third-place NBC affiliate WMAR-TV, which CBS left for then-NBC affiliate WBAL-TV (channel 11) in 1981 over dissatisfaction with its frequent preemptions of CBS programming and the poor performance of its newscasts. Ironically, Gillett Communications (one of the predecessor companies to what eventually became New World Communications) once owned WMAR-TV, which it sold to Scripps in 1991. That sale was complicated by allegations that Gillett had misreported WMAR-TV's financial statements, as well as a bid by the Sinclair Broadcast Group (owners of Fox affiliate WBFF (channel 45)) for WMAR-TV's channel 2 allocation.
Group W had already been in discussions with several networks for new, group-wide affiliations prior to the announcement of the Fox-New World deal, and these talks accelerated after WJZ-TV lost ABC. On July 14, 1994, Westinghouse agreed to affiliate three of its five stations with CBS. In September 1994, existing CBS affiliates KDKA-TV (channel 2) in Pittsburgh and KPIX (channel 5) in San Francisco began carrying the entire CBS schedule as a condition of the deal. WJZ-TV and NBC affiliate WBZ-TV (channel 4) in Boston switched to CBS on January 2, 1995. This was followed by the switchover of KYW-TV (channel 3) in Philadelphia from NBC to CBS, to whom Group W also sold a minority share of KYW-TV, on September 10, 1995.
KYW-TV's switchover prompted an additional network/station swap, in Philadelphia and in three other cities. WCAU-TV (channel 10), Philadelphia's CBS station since 1948 and a network-owned outlet since 1958, was traded to NBC in exchange for KCNC-TV (channel 4) in Denver and KUTV (channel 2) in Salt Lake City. As compensation for these station trades, CBS-owned WCIX in Miami swapped transmitter facilities and channel frequencies with NBC-owned WTVJ. Group W and CBS then formed a joint venture involving its new properties and WCIX (which was renamed WFOR-TV when it moved to the channel 4 position previously occupied by WTVJ, which moved in turn to channel 6) with Westinghouse Broadcasting as the majority (51 percent) owner.
Group W's corporate parent, Westinghouse Electric, purchased CBS on August 1, 1995. This resulted in CBS selling WPRI-TV (channel 12) in Providence, Rhode Island (which had previously been affiliated with the network from 1955 to 1977), which it had acquired just prior to striking its affiliation deal with Group W. The WPRI purchase was the catalyst of an additional affiliation switch, as WPRI's former alliance with ABC moved to Freedom Communications-owned WLNE (channel 6), which was previously a CBS affiliate. WPRI-TV's signal carried from Rhode Island over into most of the Boston market 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 (counting them as de facto duopolies without factoring their being licensed in separate markets) and would not even consider a waiver for stations with large overlapping coverage areas.
Impact on CBS
As expected, CBS bore the 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 for selling off major portions of the company, such as Columbia Records (which was sold to Sony). When CBS lost the NFL to Fox, the problems accelerated as the "Tiffany Network" struggled to compete in the ratings with a slate of programming whose audiences skewed older in comparison to the other networks, even though the network still finished ahead of Fox, whose programming at the time of the NFL deal was almost exclusively limited to primetime and children's programs. One of the few bright spots in terms of ratings and audience demographics for CBS in the Tisch era, the Late Show with David Letterman, which often dominated The Tonight Show in its first two years, saw its ratings decline in large part due to the affiliation switches, at times even finishing in third place in its timeslot behind Nightline on ABC.
CBS' problems were especially evident in the recruiting of new affiliates; as a direct result of the New World-Fox alliance, only a handful of new CBS affiliates were VHF stations:
- In the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Gaylord Broadcasting-owned KTVT (channel 11) became the new CBS affiliate on July 1, 1995 after KDFW switched to Fox. KDAF (channel 33), an original Fox-owned station, became a WB affiliate (it is now affiliated with The CW). KTVT would eventually be purchased by CBS in 1999, four years after the switches took place.
- As a byproduct of the KTVT deal, sister station KSTW (channel 11) in the Seattle–Tacoma market itself affiliated with CBS on March 13, 1995, replacing KIRO-TV (channel 7). KIRO-TV returned to CBS two years later in 1997 following a sale of the station from Belo Corporation to Cox Enterprises. CBS has since acquired KSTW, which is now the market's CW outlet.
- In Phoenix, CBS moved to KPHO-TV, an independent station which ironically was CBS's original Phoenix affiliate from 1949 to 1953. As part of the deal with KPHO parent Meredith Corporation, CBS moved to WNEM-TV (channel 5), replacing WEYI-TV (channel 25) in Flint–Saginaw–Bay City, Michigan area; and protected its relationship with Meredith's Kansas City station, KCTV (also on channel 5), through this deal as well. This deal, along with ABC's aforementioned purchase of WJRT-TV, led to NBC affiliating with WEYI-TV.
- CBS remedied their Cincinnati and Tampa-St. Petersburg situations by picking up both of the Citicasters stations displaced in the ABC-Scripps alliance. WTSP in Tampa-St. Petersburg switched to CBS on December 12, 1994, while WKRC-TV in Cincinnati had to wait until WCPO-TV's affiliation contract with CBS ended in June 1996 before it could switch.
Because of the New World deal, eventual deals involving Scripps' stations, and the unwillingness of rival stations in almost all of the affected markets to switch to what had become a mediocre network critically and commercially, CBS was left with lesser-known affiliates in Atlanta, Detroit and Milwaukee, where the new affiliates were all low-profile UHF stations with far less transmitting power and viewer recognition than their previous affiliates:
- 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, the network reached a deal with Tribune Broadcasting-owned WGNX (channel 46, now Meredith Corporation-owned WGCL-TV). A relatively competitive independent station that experienced success with its own primetime newscast, WGNX was slated to become Atlanta's WB affiliate prior to agreeing to terms with CBS. Ironically, CBS eventually acquired channel 69 as a UPN affiliate (it has since become CW owned-and-operated station WUPA). The market's former Fox station, WATL (channel 36, now affiliated with MyNetworkTV) became Atlanta's WB affiliate. WATL was sold to the Gannett Company in 2006, making it a sister station to NBC affiliate WXIA-TV (channel 11).
- Milwaukee's new CBS station, WDJT-TV (channel 58), had a general syndicated schedule, with some ethnic and time-brokered religious programming mixed in, however it had the setback of having very low cable carriage in the market; what cable coverage it had was far away from the regular broadcast tier, as high as the upper 40s on some suburban systems. The station was based out of facilities in downtown Milwaukee's Marc Plaza Hotel, which had been regarded as antiquated, having housed other television and radio stations in the past before modern facilities could be built for them. The station's owners, Weigel Broadcasting, had its roots in running Chicago independent station WCIU-TV (channel 26), 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 CBS's attempt to buy religious station WVCY-TV (channel 30) fell through. As WDJT's switchover to CBS came only days after it was announced as Milwaukee's new affiliate, a primitive logo featuring the CBS eye to the left of its "58" logo (scripted in italic Times New Roman) served as the station's logo for several months. Generic CBS promos were also used at this time while WDJT looked to start a news department and find larger studio facilities; the station then built a new transmitter in 1999 which now has transmitting power equal with the market's other five commercial stations. Former Fox affiliate WCGV-TV joined the then-upstart UPN, (it is now affiliated with MyNetworkTV as well).
- In Detroit, finding a replacement affiliate proved especially difficult for CBS. In an eleventh-hour deal reached mere days before WJBK-TV was due to drop the network's programming, CBS purchased WGPR-TV (channel 62) from a group of African-American Masons. CBS had preferred to reach a deal with WADL (channel 38), but broke off negotiations when that station's owner, Kevin Adell, began making unreasonable demands. WGPR-TV's purchase though was also controversial; 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. However, the company could not stop CBS from moving its programming to WGPR; a court ruled in favor of CBS the following year. WGPR, which became WWJ-TV under CBS ownership, 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 (it is now co-owned with WWJ-TV as the market's CW owned-and-operated station).
The ratings impact in the three markets where CBS was relegated to lesser-profile stations was significant; the former CBS affiliates were all considered to be ratings contenders, especially during the NFL season. With CBS having been relegated to the UHF dial on stations that had virtually no significant history as a former Fox or Big Three affiliate or as a first-tier independent station, ratings for CBS programming in these markets dropped significantly. At one point, in the aforementioned markets, CBS was considering importing the signals of affiliates in nearby markets via cable as a result of its difficulty finding a new affiliate to replace WAGA, WITI and WJBK, respectively. In Milwaukee, for instance, the affiliation switches there resulted in several of CBS' remaining sports properties, most notably the Daytona 500, not being carried over some southeastern Wisconsin systems in 1995 until WDJT signed new carriage contracts.
Impact on ABC
While ABC saw neither a positive nor negative impact from the effects of the affiliation switches, as the switches nationwide primarily affected CBS affiliates in larger markets, the first station to switch affiliations as a result of Fox's acquisition of NFL broadcast rights was an ABC affiliate in a smaller market. On April 17, 1994, ABC affiliate KARD (channel 14) in Monroe, Louisiana, an unofficial secondary market for the New Orleans Saints (though this is the case with the state of Louisiana in general), dropped ABC and became a full-time Fox affiliate; KARD had been a secondary Fox affiliate since 1987. This move would leave ABC without an affiliate in Monroe until KAQY (channel 11) signed on in December 1998.
Around the same time, some of its most prominent affiliate groups signed new affiliation deals that largely involved ABC. In addition to its deal with Scripps, ABC gained new affiliates when the Allbritton Communications Company, the parent company of its Washington, D.C. affiliate WJLA-TV (channel 7) and the new combined WBMA-LP/WCFT/WJSU operation that replaced WBRC as the Birmingham market's ABC station, signed all of its existing ABC affiliates to a long-term contract. The deal also added new ABC affiliates in WCIV (channel 4) in Charleston, South Carolina (from NBC, replacing WCBD-TV, channel 2), newly established WJXX in Jacksonville (replacing WJKS-TV (channel 17, now WCWJ), and WB affiliate WBSG-TV (channel 21, now WPXC-TV) in Brunswick, Georgia, which served the fringes of the Jacksonville market in southeast Georgia.
Another ABC station group affected was McGraw-Hill, whose broadcasting division also had arranged a new deal in which all four of its stations would affiliate with ABC. The company's two existing ABC affiliates, WRTV (channel 6) in Indianapolis and KGTV (channel 10) in San Diego, would be joined by CBS affiliates KERO-TV (channel 23) in Bakersfield, California and KMGH-TV (channel 7) in Denver, the former of which had to wait for its affiliation deal with CBS to expire before switching to ABC.
In the Sacramento-Stockton television market, Sinclair Broadcast Group agreed to surrender KOVR (channel 13)'s ABC affiliation to then-Belo owned CBS affiliate KXTV (channel 10). Since then, Gannett has purchased KXTV from Belo, while CBS has acquired KOVR. Since KOVR switched from ABC to CBS, the station launched what would become a successful programming strategy in which the CBS primetime lineup starts an hour earlier at 7 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. (mirroring the network's scheduling in all U.S. time zones outside of the Eastern and Pacific Time Zones), making it the only station in the Pacific Time Zone to schedule network programming in such a manner (although San Francisco's KRON-TV (channel 4) – then affiliated with NBC, and KOVR sister station KPIX did schedule primetime network programming in that manner during the early and mid-1990s, as part of an attempt to compete with Fox affiliate KTVU's highly successful 10 p.m. newscast).
However, ABC experienced significant downgrades in several of its Indiana markets – the most significant being in South Bend (home of the University of Notre Dame, whose football team's road games often air on ABC), where full-power affiliate WSJV (channel 28), owned by Quincy Newspapers, switched to Fox in August 1995 (possibly to assuage the fan base of the nearby Chicago Bears). W58BT (channel 58), a low-power Fox affiliate owned by Weigel Broadcasting, ended up becoming an ABC affiliate almost by default due to the lack of another available commercial full-power station in the market; the only other choice, WHME-TV (channel 46), was owned by the broadcasting arm of the locally based Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association, which neither had intent to sell nor take a network affiliation. This led to 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 (channel 7) and Battle Creek, Michigan's WOTV (channel 41). W58BT soon changed its call letters to WBND-LP (although it had marketed itself as "WBND" from its launch); it did not start a limited news operation until 2008, using reporting from South Bend and WDJT staff anchoring and providing weather forecasts for the station, before establishing a full locally based news department in 2011.
Around the same time in Evansville, ABC lost its longtime affiliate WTVW (channel 7, which was also the market's only VHF station) to Fox as well, but instead of affiliating with former Fox affiliate WEVV (channel 44), the network would instead move to the stronger CBS affiliate WEHT (channel 25), while WEVV wound up becoming the market's new CBS affiliate. In Terre Haute, WBAK-TV (channel 38) switched from ABC to Fox, leaving viewers with only fringe access to out-of-market ABC stations in Indianapolis, Evansville and Champaign, Illinois as Terre Haute did not have enough stations to support full-time affiliations from four networks (only three commercial full-power stations – WTWO (channel 2), WTHI-TV (channel 10) and WBAK – were licensed to the market at the time, a situation that continues to this day). Fox dropped WTVW and WFXW as affiliates in 2011, due to a dispute between the Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Fox over a planned increase in Fox's share of retransmission compensation that the network's affiliates received from pay television providers; the network's programming now airs on digital subchannels of WEVV in Evansville and WTHI in Terre Haute, with ABC returning to what had become WFXW (the station changed its call letters to WAWV-TV with the return of ABC programming) in the latter market.
Impact on NBC
As a result of the affiliation switches, 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). NBC would maintain its ratings lead until the 1998–99 television season, coincidentally the first season since it lost the rights to the AFC package (see below), when CBS overtook NBC at number one. The three major networks would trade first place between 1999 and 2005, when CBS retook the lead; the latter network now often battles with Fox for first place, largely on the strength of Fox's American Idol. Since Friends and Frasier ended their runs in 2004, NBC has largely struggled in the ratings despite acquiring the rights to Sunday Night Football (one of the few shows since that point to earn strong ratings for NBC) in 2006 from ESPN, as a byproduct of the latter's acquisition of Monday Night Football from sister network ABC.
In markets where New World stations were located, NBC affiliates often reaped the most rewards. In Phoenix, KPNX (channel 12) was the only VHF commercial station (and one of two along with non-commercial PBS member station KAET (channel 8)) unaffected by the affiliation switch, and went from being the market's third-place station to its top-rated one. And in Tampa, after switching to Fox, WTVT in Tampa lost its number one position in the market to NBC affiliate WFLA-TV (channel 8), which was also the only major-network station in Tampa not affected by the switch. The effects of the Group W deal also benefited NBC as well: in Denver and Baltimore, the remaining Big Three affiliates – Denver's KUSA-TV (channel 9) and Baltimore's WBAL-TV (channel 11) – joined NBC. Ratings concerns were never a factor for NBC; KUSA-TV was already a strong ABC affiliate, while WBAL-TV often competed with WJZ-TV for first place in Baltimore. Two other displaced CBS affiliates, KSL-TV (channel 5) in Salt Lake City and WHDH-TV (channel 7) in Boston, also affiliated with NBC. KSL-TV has since become a strong NBC affiliate despite occasional preemptions effecting from its ownership by the broadcasting arm of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (one example being the 2012-13 sitcom The New Normal due in part to its homosexual characters), while WHDH in Boston went from being a perennial third-place station to a contender for first place in Boston despite criticism over its tabloid style of news coverage (which is a scaled-back version of the news format used by sister station WSVN, whose owner, Sunbeam Television, bought WHDH prior to the switches on April 22, 1993).
Not every outcome ultimately benefited NBC: in Honolulu, where NBC lost its affiliate KHON to Fox, it hoped to offer the affiliation to ABC affiliate KITV (channel 4) at first, but after KITV was sold to Argyle II and opted to stay with ABC instead, NBC affiliated with former Fox affiliate KHNL (channel 13), then owned by Belo (it is now owned by Raycom Media). KHNL has recently struggled in the face of local controversy over Raycom's Hawaii News Now virtual triopoly which includes CBS station KGMB (channel 5) and MyNetworkTV station KFVE (channel 9, which traded channel allocations with KGMB as a byproduct of the 2010 shared services agreement between the three stations). In Kansas City, while new affiliate KSHB became the market's fastest-growing station after affiliating with NBC, this has often been viewed as a natural outcome for any station newly affiliating with a Big Three network, and overall KSHB continues to lag its VHF competitors in the ratings. The same outcome also held true in an unrelated transaction in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill), where in 1995 during the midst of the affiliation switchovers, NBC moved its affiliation from WRDC (channel 28) to Goldsboro-licensed upstart WB affiliate WNCN (channel 17). NBC had been dissatisfied with WRDC over preemptions of its programming and the station's overall poor performance in the rapidly growing Triangle region, whereas WNCN's corporate parent The Outlet Company had been reckoned as a reputable licensee for the network; the company owned two of NBC's strongest affiliates in Columbus, Ohio (WCMH-TV (channel 4)) and Providence, Rhode Island (WJAR (channel 10)) – both coincidentally at the time were secondary markets for NBC's NFL coverage and eventually became NBC O&Os. While WNCN has gained a sizable audience since affiliating with NBC and its attempts at producing newscasts have been far more successful than WRDC's efforts ever were, the station continues to lag behind CBS affiliate WRAL-TV (channel 5) and ABC owned-and-operated WTVD (channel 11), two of those network's strongest affiliates.
Because Fox programmed far fewer hours of network content than CBS, NBC and ABC, this left open a considerable amount of timeslots for the new Fox affiliates to fill via syndication. Despite this, some of the more notable first-run syndicated programs of the time, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Donahue, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight and Siskel & Ebert (among others), were dropped by many – though not all – of the New World stations that carried such programming. These shows were replaced by lower-budget syndicated programs as well as newer series including Access Hollywood and Judge Judy. Judge Judy has since become a cultural icon and a staple of Fox's owned-and-operated stations (along with many Fox stations not owned by the network) in addition to being one of the highest rated syndicated programs, often finishing ahead of some of the above-mentioned shows in the national Nielsen ratings, and its success fueled a resurgence of the reality courtroom show genre. As of 2013, Judith Sheindlin is the highest-paid personality on television. Conversely, a few of the stations that joined Fox as a result of the deals retained or later acquired some of the mentioned first-run syndicated programs that other newfound Fox stations dropped (such as Wheel and Jeopardy!, which were both kept by WVUE-TV and WLUK-TV; both stations eventually cancelled their 6 p.m. newscasts to carry both shows in a one-hour block, with expanded 5 p.m. newscasts becoming the lead-ins for both).
In regards to Fox's NFL coverage itself, there were still implications despite the new affiliations. San Diego's UPN affiliate KUSI-TV (channel 51) tried unsuccessfully to take the Fox affiliation away from XETV, citing FCC regulations preventing any foreign station outside of the United States (XETV is licensed to Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico) from airing live American sporting events without an FCC-approved license, but Fox was eventually granted the permit allowing XETV to carry games (even though San Diego is an AFC market that is home to the Chargers; as such, Fox broadcasts no more than two Chargers' games each season, both home contests against NFC teams). KUSI eventually reverted to its pre-UPN affiliation status as an independent station in 1998, long before UPN dissolved in 2006, while XETV switched to The CW in August 2008 after losing its Fox affiliation to KSWB-TV (channel 69).
In smaller markets with a strong NFL fanbase, Fox had the disadvantage of not having a local affiliate, let alone a station to affiliate with, forcing the network to strike deals with other networks' affiliates. In Wausau, Wisconsin, Quincy Newspapers' ABC affiliate WAOW-TV (channel 9) aired the NFL on Fox package for five years (in addition to already airing Monday Night Football games as an ABC affiliate) to assuage its Packers fanbase until Wittenberg-licensed WFXS (channel 55) launched in 1999 to allow the network an affiliate in the area (the net effect being that WAOW carried up to 13 Packers games a year from 1994 to 1998 from both Fox and ABC). Also, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, KOCR-TV (channel 28, now KFXA), a Fox affiliate with its own internal problems (it would cease operations in 1994 due to non-payment of electricity bills and eviction from its facilities), gave the rights to the NFL on Fox package to CBS affiliate KGAN-TV (channel 2). In Youngstown, Ohio, ABC affiliate WYTV (channel 33) aired the NFL on Fox from 1994 to 1998 to help fill the void in areas that did not receive WJW nor Pittsburgh's WPGH-TV (channel 53) until CBS affiliate WKBN-TV (channel 27) launched WYFX-LP (channel 19) as a full-time Fox affiliate (coincidentally, all three are now sister stations due to a shared services agreement for WKBN-TV to operate WYTV). Despite being fertile battleground territory for the Browns–Steelers rivalry, as both teams were in the AFC, having the NFL on Fox had minimal impact for both teams in the area, then no impact at all for Browns fans after the team suspended operations for three years. Fox's acquisition of NFL rights did, however, give viewers in Youngstown access to San Francisco 49ers games; the DeBartolo family that has long owned the team are from the area and continue to reside in the Youngstown suburb of Canfield, Ohio.
Meanwhile, other stations whose affiliations were impacted began turning down weaker programs of their departing network. In Phoenix, KTVK, which lost its affiliation with ABC in the Scripps deal after having previously turned down CBS in anticipation of a renewed agreement with ABC, began to turn down most of the latter network's programming. On its final day as a lame-duck ABC affiliate (January 8, 1995), KTVK only had ABC's primetime lineup, major soaps and sports programming remaining on its schedule; the ABC programs that KTVK had dropped were picked up by KNXV prior to it officially joining the network. In Atlanta, before its switch on December 11, 1994, WAGA began turning down some weaker CBS programs on a week-by-week basis. Additionally, Fox's two former owned-and-operated stations in Atlanta (WATL) and Dallas (KDAF) had been in the process of launching primetime newscasts, with WATL having even hired a news director. After the New World deal resulted in Fox affiliating with the CBS affiliates in those markets, these plans were shelved. KDAF eventually relaunched its newscasts (after a nearly decade-long hiatus) in 1999 under its new owners (Tribune Broadcasting), while WATL would not air news until 2006 when sister station WXIA-TV, which eventually relocated its operations to WATL's One Monroe Place studios in Midtown Atlanta after Gannett purchased WATL, began producing a 10 p.m. newscast for the latter station.
In some instances, the networks had to continue running their newly acquired stations as affiliates of rival networks temporarily while new affiliation deals were finalized. In Toledo, ABC had to run WTVG (a former ABC affiliate from 1958 to 1969 as WSPD-TV) as an NBC affiliate for the two-month period between its purchase of WTVG and NBC's eventual affiliation with WNWO. In Birmingham, Fox had to run WBRC as an ABC affiliate until that station's affiliation agreement expired after the 1995–1996 television season. This practice was not new at the time; in 1988, NBC was forced to run WTVJ in Miami as a CBS affiliate for one year after Sunbeam Television, owner of rival outlet WSVN (currently Miami's Fox affiliate), refused to end that station's contract with NBC until it expired at the beginning of 1989.
In 1994, when Fox started airing NFL games, only a few Fox affiliates had carried local news programs. Fox then demanded that its affiliates start running local newscasts in the run-up to the launch of Fox News Channel in late-1996, and their connecting affiliate news sharing service, Fox NewsEdge. Since then, most Fox affiliates that did not already have news programs have premiered their own locally produced newscasts, usually starting with a primetime newscast in the 10 p.m. hour (or 9 p.m., depending on the time zone) and adding broadcasts in other time periods over time (some medium and most small markets, however, have had a local Big Three affiliate produce the newscasts for the Fox affiliate through news share agreements, though a few Fox stations with such an agreement have ended those partnerships to start producing their own newscasts). Currently, the largest market whose Fox affiliate does not air full-scale local news programming is Springfield, Missouri, KRBK (channel 49) in that market does produce news and weather updates that air during regular programming; the largest market whose Fox affiliate outsources its news programming is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where WPGH-TV has had its 10 p.m. newscast produced by NBC affiliate WPXI (channel 11) since 2006 (although WPGH produced the program itself for ten years prior to the shutdown of the station's own news department due to budget cuts imposed by Sinclair Broadcast Group that also resulted in the shutdown of its News Central division).
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 no national newscasts – the lone exception later being the Sunday morning political talk show Fox News Sunday, which debuted on the network in 1996. Over time, the former Big Three stations which had aired newscasts for years, along with many original Fox stations, expanded them. The Big Three stations that joined Fox through the New World, SF Broadcasting and select other ancillary affiliation deals adopted a news-intensive format that was similar or identical to that adopted by Miami's WSVN when it joined the network in 1989, that station's own decision to run a heavy lineup of news being a precursor to the format adopted by the later Big Three-turned-Fox affiliates, in contrast to the syndicated programming-dominant format that most Fox stations had at the time. Existing morning newscasts on Fox stations gradually expanded to compete with the national morning shows aired by the Big Three (running in competition with the first or, more commonly, both hours of said programs). These morning newscasts have since performed competitively and have even placed first in the ratings in many markets, with its primary advantage being the focus on local news and events.
Besides expanding their morning newscasts, the new Fox stations affected by the deals retained midday (though the SF Broadcasting stations, except for KHON-TV, would drop theirs by the late 1990s), some or all early evening (two of the New World stations, KSAZ-TV and KTBC, and most of the SF Broadcasting stations – except KHON – immediately or later dropped their 6 p.m. newscasts after joining Fox, while keeping those in the 5 p.m. timeslot) and in some cases, late evening newscasts. The majority of these stations also launched primetime newscasts: on some of the new Fox stations (such as WJBK, WJW and WAGA-TV), these earlier late evening newscasts supplanted those that ran in the traditional 11/10 p.m. timeslot, while such newscasts were paired with the new primetime newscasts on others (such as KDFW, WDAF-TV and WITI). KTBC and KHON, however, did not add primetime newscasts after switching, both stations retained their existing 10 p.m. newscasts as their only late news programs (KTBC, which opted to run syndicated programs during that hour, added a 9 p.m. newscast in 1998, after becoming a Fox O&O; KHON's late newscast remains in the traditional 10 p.m. slot for Hawaiian stations to this day due partly to the fact that the station runs Fox's Sunday primetime schedule on a one-hour tape delay, and fills the 9 p.m. hour on Monday through Saturday nights with syndicated programming); WBRC and WVUE initially opted to run 9 and 10 p.m. newscasts but run syndicated programs in the half-hour in-between (both stations now run hour-long primetime newscasts in the 9 p.m. slot).
A few of the new Fox stations – such as WDAF-TV, KHON-TV and KTBC – also launched early evening newscasts modeled after the news programs seen on the Big Three networks (airing in the timeslots formerly held by said programs under their former affiliations – 6:30 or 5:30 p.m. depending on the time zone – one of the timeslots where most of the new Fox stations – especially those in the Central and Mountain Time Zones for the latter – added newscasts after switching from their former networks) that focused on national and international news; most of the efforts were not successful with WDAF and KTBC, in particular, having reformatted them as traditional locally focused newscasts after a relatively short time. KHON was the only station to experience success with such a format (its World Report newscast, which replaced NBC Nightly News after the switch from NBC to Fox, continues to air on the station as of 2014).
By the time of Fox's buyout of New World, some of New World's stations 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." Indeed, many New World Fox affiliates carried over their Big Three-era branding schemes after affiliating with Fox (although WITI dropped its longtime branding as "TV-6" in favor of "Fox is Six," and KTVI and WJBK respectively rebranded from "Channel 2" and "TV-2" to "Fox 2" upon joining the network) and would receive 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. Some branding changes proved to be controversial; in Cleveland, WJW controversially dropped its long-running Newscenter 8 brand for its newscasts in favor of ei8ht IS NEWS (WJW's general branding was likewise changed from "TV-8" to "Fox is ei8ht," with both new brands being used fairly repititiously in promotions, including those seen during newscasts), which lasted for nearly a year before Fox's purchased the station several months later, consigning WJW to the "Fox 8" brand under the network's branding conventions. 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. Others have continued to work with the new Fox affiliates, one notable example being chief meteorologist Dick Goddard, who has worked with WJW since 1966.
To this day, New World's Fox affiliates have seen mixed results with their newscasts. Some of the stronger New World stations have maintained their ratings dominance; in Birmingham, WBRC's primetime newscast is considered one of the nation's highest-rated newscasts. Additionally, WDAF-TV in Kansas City has finished number one in several timeslots, including in the morning and at 9:00 p.m., after falling to second for a brief period behind ABC affiliate KMBC-TV (channel 9), which had reclaimed first place after WDAF switched to Fox, further intensifying the rivalry between the two stations (WDAF competes for second place with KCTV in timeslots where WDAF does not have an absolute hold in that position). In Phoenix, KSAZ-TV has since surpassed KTVK and has held on to second place in the ratings. However, in other markets, the results were subpar in comparison. In Cleveland, WJW-TV fell from first place due to viewers being lost as a result of the station's newfound dysfunction in terms of news-gathering. The problems were especially evident following the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, when WJW-TV then had the disadvantage of not having an affiliated national news partner at the time; Fox News Channel and the Fox NewsEdge video service would not exist until the following year, and the station was only able to use external feeds from CNN Newsource (one of several broadcast wire news services, including Associated Press Television News and Reuters, that the newly switched Fox stations relied on for video to cover national and international news stories because of Fox's initial lack of an affiliate news service) for news coverage outside of its Cleveland viewing area. WEWS (which shunned CBS via the ABC-Scripps deal) would overtake the station as the market's top-rated news team, while NBC station WKYC-TV, which for years had solely been used as a "farm team" station under NBC ownership to build up talent for larger NBC O&O stations until it sold a controlling stake in WKYC to Multimedia Inc. (which in 1995, merged with the Gannett Company, now the sole owner of WKYC) in 1990, began to post higher ratings for the first time in decades. WJW has since regained the ratings lead for most of its newscasts.
As for many of the new Big Three affiliates, whether or not they were successful depended on their previous affiliations. For instance, new CBS affiliates that were previously with NBC or ABC often maintained their ratings strength over time, and in some cases it depended on whether or not the station had broadcast on VHF. Two of the new VHF CBS affiliates that were previously independent, KTVT in Dallas and KPHO in Phoenix, also became ratings contenders over time, with KTVT's 10 p.m. news even beating longtime leader WFAA-TV (channel 8) in that timeslot, while KSTW in Seattle struggled to gain an audience to the point where CBS eventually returned to prior affiliate KIRO-TV after only two years (its struggle to gain news viewership, despite KSTW's success with a primetime newscast before joining CBS, even led to the station periodically changing the timeslots of the daytime and early evening newscasts it offered during its two-year tenure with CBS). Meanwhile, NBC's two former Group W affiliates saw divergent paths over time: Philadelphia's KYW surpassed WCAU for second place (behind WPVI-TV (channel 6)) in the early 2000s, while Boston's WBZ fell to third behind WHDH (with ABC affiliate WCVB-TV (channel 5) usually placing first).
However, many of the new Big Three UHF affiliates found difficulty gaining an audience. As these were former Fox affiliates (or independents) that either did not have news departments or only offered a primetime (10 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. CT/MT, etc.) newscast at the time of their affiliation switches, almost all of them had to give in to launching new newscasts to back up the nationally distributed newscasts provided by the networks – in some cases, replicating the same news programming output as their new network's departing affiliate had produced as part of the new affiliation deals. Generally, the stations that continue to air newscasts to this day have generally finished in fourth place behind their VHF competitors. Scripps' KNXV, WFTS and KSHB, for instance, often finish near or at the bottom of their markets' local news ratings despite gradual growth; KNXV still usually places last amongst its English-language competitors, with Univision's KTVW-TV (channel 33) often outrating its Anglophone competitors at times.
Furthermore, other new affiliates that launched newscasts failed to gain traction with its competitors and eventually either cancelled their newscasts or outsourced them to other news organizations. In Detroit, WWJ-TV premiered a newscast in the fall of 2001 that was produced by sister station WKBD (a similar situation occurred with WOIO, which had then-LMA partner WUAB (channel 43), which had been producing a primetime newscast of its own since 1988, produce its newscasts). Both the WKBD and WWJ newscasts were cancelled in late 2002 after WKBD entered into a news share agreement with WXYZ-TV to produce WKBD's 10 p.m. newscast. Therefore, WWJ at the time became the largest major-network affiliate by market size, and the only O&O of any major network, to have no newscasts of any kind. From 2006 to 2008, WWJ-TV made light of this fact in its slogan, Where No News is Good News, used to promote programming during periods where there would usually be newscasts. In 2009, WWJ debuted First Forecast Mornings, a morning newscast produced in association with the Detroit Free Press and CBSDetroit.com (the shared website for WWJ-TV, WKBD and CBS's Detroit radio properties), The show was cancelled in December 2012 due to low ratings. Two ABC affiliates now owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, KDNL-TV in St. Louis and WXLV in the Piedmont Triad region, also experienced difficulty with their own attempts at news coverage. KDNL's news department lasted for six years until its cancellation, which was widely blamed on a transmitter problem, while WXLV has had two failed attempts at local newscasts, first since becoming an ABC affiliate until January 2002, and later from 2004 to 2005 through Sinclair's controversial News Central experiment, which was cancelled after the company discontinued the format on stations that broadcast it due to poor ratings. Both stations have since launched outsourced newscasts: KDNL aired evening newscasts through a news share agreement with local NBC affiliate KSDK (also owned by Gannett) – which ended on December 31, 2013, and WXLV launched newscasts produced by cable news channel News 14 Carolina in 2012, as part of compensation for a retransmission consent dispute between Time Warner Cable and Sinclair.
Fox Kids repercussions
Nearly all of the twelve stations that switched to Fox resulting from the New World deal chose not to carry the Fox Kids children's programming block due to interest in airing more local news, which is uncharacteristic of a broadcast network affiliate. Big Three affiliates were required to air their network's children's programming (though some stations have historically preempted some portion of the network's children's blocks); however in comparison, the Big Three networks only aired their shows on Saturday mornings compared to Fox Kids, which ran Mondays through Saturdays (in comparison, the SF Broadcasting stations and other new Fox affiliates from ancillary deals spurred by the New World agreement chose to carry Fox Kids). Upon its switch to Fox as a newfound O&O, WGHP initially cleared Fox Kids, but 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); at that time, Fox Kids moved to WB affiliate WBFX (channel 20, 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 and later joined The WB. These preemptions were especially the case following Fox's purchase of Chris-Craft/United Television in 2001. 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 even 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 former WBFX (renamed WTWB-TV) following suit a year later.
Because of these preemptions, Fox ran the risk of carrying Fox Kids on stations whose operational philosophies were not neutral in comparison to Fox and almost its entire competition. In St. Louis, religious station KNLC (channel 24), owned by the New Life Christian Church, acquired the rights to Fox Kids in August 1995 in lieu of KTVI; however, the church's reverend, Larry Rice, refused to show commercials during breaks within Fox Kids programming, replacing them with ministry messages. Uncomfortable with messages on controversial topics including abortion, same-sex marriage and the death penalty being shown during a children's program block in lieu of commercials, Fox ended up moving Fox Kids to KTVI, which became the only ex-New World station to air the block (and later carried its successors FoxBox and 4KidsTV); however, the station aired it two hours earlier than other stations that carry 4Kids TV, due to a Saturday morning newscast airing at 9 a.m. Although New World stations in Atlanta, Austin, Cleveland, High Point and Phoenix had turned down Fox Kids programming in all of its various iterations (Fox Kids, FoxBox and 4Kids TV), none of the stations filled the timeslots with Saturday morning newscasts, instead filling the time with paid programming, local real estate presentation shows, and E/I programming acquired via syndication, further rendering these Fox affiliates' reputation as being not so much in line with their Big Three counterparts as opposed to a netlet/independent station. In Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham and the Piedmont Triad (where High Point is situated), 4Kids TV did not even air on another station in any of those markets due to stations dropping the lineup.
In Milwaukee, 4Kids TV began airing on independent station WMLW-CA (channel 41, now WBME-CD), a Class A-licensed sister station of WDJT, starting in September 2004; though the station had extended cable coverage throughout the market, its terrestrial coverage area is much smaller compared to former Fox affiliate WCGV (WMLW's programming and calls eventually moved to a Racine-licensed full-power station on channel 49 in August 2012, with Me-TV programming moved to the Class A station). In Phoenix, KTVK had acquired Fox Kids in place of ABC's soap operas, but when KTVK's program inventory grew unmanageable to the point where the station could not air a Saturday morning newscast, and upstart KASW (channel 61, now a CW affiliate)'s television time was bought out in a local marketing agreement prior to the station's sign-on, Fox Kids and The WB moved to KASW. Because Kids' WB (which was replaced two years later by The CW4Kids) came as part of the CW affiliation (which KASW obtained in May 2006), 4Kids TV was shifted to Sunday mornings, where it remained until its demise. That latter move happened in Detroit, when 4Kids TV moved to WB affiliate WDWB (channel 20) after spending a few years on WADL-TV, to where it had moved from WKBD. 4Kids TV continued to air on Sunday mornings in Detroit even after WDWB affiliated with MyNetworkTV (which does not have a children's program block) as WMYD in 2006. At least three other stations (two of which are owned by Fox) have pulled such a maneuver: charter Fox O&O WFLD in Chicago dropped 4Kids TV and moved it to newly acquired sister station WPWR-TV (channel 50) in 2003; newfound Fox O&O KMSP in Minneapolis pulled off a similar maneuver, moving 4Kids TV to WFTC in 2006. Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned KABB (channel 29) in San Antonio also moved 4Kids TV to sister station and then-MyNetworkTV affiliate KMYS (channel 35) in 2006. In the cases of the latter two, the shift was due to an expansion of its morning newscasts to Saturdays (KABB's venture into weekend morning news being short-lived).
Because of the various clearance shifts, despite Fox continuing to advertise the block in promos during select Fox primetime shows, 4Kids TV amounted to merely nothing more than a syndication package; if Fox limited 4Kids TV to air only on its stations, 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 children's programs acquired from the syndication market – eventually incorporating shows fitting the FCC's educational programming guidelines – in its place, either following a newscast or in place of it (such as Safari Tracks and Beakman's World), though Fox's coverage of Major League Baseball does include a half-hour of E/I programming seen across the network: MLB Player Poll. Owing to these preemptions and concerns in both its internal and external environments, a pay dispute with 4Kids Entertainment, the continuous shift of Saturday morning children's audiences to cable television and video on demand services, and the expansion of local and national weekday morning news/talk programs (such as Good Morning America) to weekends, 4Kids TV ended its run on December 27, 2008. Fox gave two of the block's four hours back to the stations, while retaining the remaining two hours to program a block of paid programming branded as Weekend Marketplace. Many of the stations which took 4KidsTV in lieu of the local Fox stations chose not to take Weekend Marketplace (such as WBFS-TV (channel 33) in Miami and WMLW-CA), along with those Fox stations, and the block sees low clearance outside of O&Os and Fox stations which previously cleared 4Kids TV.
Until the affiliation switches, Canadian television providers could pick up (per a rule imposed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, 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 a PBS member station, with exceptions made to allow additional stations for areas that could pick them up over-the-air (as a result, some towns in the province of British Columbia received Fox programming from KAYU-TV (channel 28) in Spokane, Washington, and the Windsor–Essex County region in Ontario 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, 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.
Additional changes were in store for Canadian cable providers that carried the affiliates from Detroit; while they were still able to keep WJBK under its Fox affiliation and eventual ownership, CBS's new purchase – WWJ-TV – was also added in many markets, and Southwestern Ontario providers also struggled to receive the weaker UHF channel 19 signal of the new CBS affiliate in Cleveland, WOIO from across Lake Erie, whereas new Fox affiliate WJW-TV, with its strong VHF channel 8 signal hardly had much cross-lake interference. Further complications came during the digital transition when WOIO and NewNet/A/CTV Two's London, Ontario station CFPL-DT ended up both assigned channel 10 in the digital age, a situation that remains un-rectified.
The new fifth and sixth networks
The affiliation switches came at the same time that two new television networks planned to launch. On November 2, 1993, the Warner Bros. Entertainment unit of Time Warner announced that it would partner with the Tribune Company to form The WB. Stations owned by Tribune's broadcasting division, which included several top-rated independent stations including those located in the major markets of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, served the network's nuclei (Atlanta station WGNX, although tapped as a charter affiliate, was the only one of Tribune's seven stations at the time that did not affiliate with The WB when it launched due to its affiliation deal with CBS).
Chris-Craft Industries, meanwhile, partnered with Paramount Pictures to create the United Paramount Network (UPN) (Paramount's third attempt at a network following the short-lived Paramount Television Network and the unlaunched Paramount Television Service); its charter stations were owned by Chris-Craft subsidiary United Television (which also owned stations in New York City and Los Angeles) and the Paramount Stations Group; like Tribune, both groups also owned stations in large and mid-sized markets. Viacom (which purchased Paramount in 1994) acquired a 50 percent ownership stake in the network from Chris-Craft on December 8, 1996 (it would later acquire Chris-Craft's remaining 50% interest in UPN on April 10, 2000, after Viacom exercised a contractual clause that allowed the company to buy out Chris-Craft's stake in the network or force it to buy Viacom out of UPN). The WB and UPN were created primarily in reaction to deregulation of the FCC's media ownership rules that repealed the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, the success of Fox and first-run syndicated programs during the late 1980s and early 1990s (such as Baywatch and Star Trek: The Next Generation), and ratings declines suffered by independent stations due to audience migration to cable television and the growth of movie rentals.
The WB debuted on January 11, 1995, while UPN launched five days later on January 16. Both networks initally ran a few nights of programming each week, similarly to Fox when it began offering primetime programs on April 9, 1987, with affiliates filling the first two hours of primetime on nights without network shows with films or syndicated programs as they did as independents; additional nights of programming were added over several seasons until September 1999 (by that point, The WB ran primetime shows on Sunday through Friday evenings, while UPN ran primetime shows only on Monday through Fridays). Watched by 21.3 million viewers, UPN's debut telecast of the two-hour pilot of Star Trek: Voyager was the highest-rated of either networks' premiere programs, and was the highest-rated network program on the evening of its debut; however, none of the other shows on UPN's initial Monday and Tuesday night lineups were renewed for a second season, while The WB fared somewhat better as only one show on its initial Wednesday lineup (Muscle) was cancelled, while the three shows that were renewed for the 1995-96 season performed modestly.
As with Fox nine years prior, the two networks generally affiliated with independent stations (along with a few stations that lost an affiliation with one of the four major networks resulting from deals spurred by the Fox/New World agreement such as KTVK, WJKS-TV and KDAF), which drastically reduced the number of U.S. television stations that lacked a network affiliation. Unlike the independent stations and Fox affiliates that joined ABC, NBC or CBS, The WB and UPN's three charter station groups had owned stations with existing news departments (such as KTLA (channel 5) in Los Angeles, WWOR-TV (channel 9) in New York City and WGN-TV (also on channel 9) in Chicago); some were established earlier in their tenures as independent stations or during prior affiliations with early networks (such as DuMont), and were usually limited to a primetime newscast that led out of the network's evening lineup; most other WB and UPN affiliates did not establish news departments during their tenures, opting to have a major network station produce their newscasts or run syndicated programming, though a few Tribune-owned WB stations and a very limited number of affiliates owned by other companies would produce their own newscasts over time. Both The WB and UPN could be seen as the successors of the Prime Time Entertainment Network (PTEN), a syndicated programming service operated by Warner Bros. and Chris-Craft, that launched in September 1993 and lasted until 1997.
Because of the potential difficulties in getting affiliates in mid-sized and small markets did not have enough television stations to support affiliates of either network at the time (resulting in some markets only having an affiliate of either The WB or UPN or a station carrying dual affiliations with both for some time), The WB signed a separate affiliation deal with Tribune flagship station WGN-TV (which initially was to remain an independent due to concerns with simultaneously maintaining a network affiliation while fulfilling its sports broadcast commitments), allowing WGN's superstation feed (now known as WGN America) to serve as a default affiliate for markets without a local affiliate for the time being (although this resulted in programming duplication in locales where the superstation feed and an in-market WB affiliate were both available). As a byproduct, the superstation feed carried The WB's primetime and Kids' WB programs to cable and satellite viewers in much of the country, while in the Chicago area, WGN-TV aired only WB primetime shows and WCIU-TV ran Kids' WB when the network debuted that children's program block in September 1995 (this lasted until 2004, when Kids' WB shows were moved to WGN-TV). In stark contrast, UPN did not allow fellow superstation WWOR-TV to distribute its programming over its WWOR EMI Service, which left gaps in affiliate clearance in many markets. The WB later launched The WB 100+ Station Group in September 1998, an alternate national feed to serve the bottom 110 Nielsen media markets. The launch of the cable-only affiliate group and additional affiliation deals with broadcast stations led to WGN dropping The WB from its cable and satellite feed in October 1999.
Fox continued to upgrade its stations in at least two unrelated deals struck later:
- Memphis: In August 1994, News Corporation/Fox purchased Memphis' longtime ABC affiliate WHBQ-TV (VHF channel 13) 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. Former Fox affiliate WPTY-TV (UHF channel 24, now WATN-TV) would take over the ABC affiliation.
- Minneapolis: KMSP-TV (channel 9), whose coverage area is the home market of the Minnesota Vikings, returned to the Fox network on September 8, 2002; it had previously been a charter Fox affiliate from 1986 to 1988, when it dropped the network due to issues with the network's then-weakly performing programs, and also had three stints as an independent station as well as serving as the market's ABC affiliate from 1961 to 1979. Fox had purchased KMSP as part of a group acquisition of Chris-Craft Industries' television station group a year earlier. Co-owned WFTC (channel 29, now a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station), which had been the market's Fox affiliate, took over the UPN affiliation from KMSP.
Additionally, Fox also experienced affiliate upgrades in three of its other markets, albeit in areas where no NFC team is located:
- Portland, Oregon: In 2002, Meredith Corporation moved the Fox affiliation in that market from KPDX (UHF channel 49) to KPTV (VHF channel 12), News Corporation bought the latter station in the Chris-Craft deal, but later traded KPTV (which coincidentally was also a charter Fox affiliate from 1986 to 1988) to Meredith in exchange for Orlando Fox affiliate WOFL (channel 35). In an ironic twist, most of the remaining UPN-affiliated, former Chris-Craft stations retained by Fox (WWOR-TV; KCOP (channel 13) in Los Angeles; and KUTP (channel 45) in Phoenix, among them) would join MyNetworkTV in 2006, as a result of the realignment caused by the merger of UPN and The WB into The CW.
- San Diego: On August 1, 2008, XETV, whose presence in the San Diego market discouraged Fox from switching the affiliation to KNSD, swapped networks with KSWB-TV and became a CW affiliate. KSWB was one of 16 charter CW affiliates owned by Tribune Broadcasting. Although it might have been seen as a downgrade on the surface, as KSWB's analog position was UHF channel 69 while XETV was on VHF channel 6, the market has heavy cable penetration and has the majority of its stations on UHF, which then brand according to their dominant cable channel slot rather than their broadcast channel allocation; as such, the station brands itself as "Fox 5" and only uses its over-the-air channel position in legally required promos, the station's PSIP virtual channel and (previously) a short sweep in the logo bug seen during its newscasts of a "Fox 69" logo. Unlike XETV, KSWB did not have its own news operation at the time the Fox affiliation deal was signed – KSWB produced a primetime newscast from 1999 to 2005 as a WB affiliate, with KNSD producing it thereafter through a news share agreement – Tribune re-established KSWB's news department as a byproduct of the deal. In regards to the NFL, this switchover is an irrelevant issue, as the Chargers play in the AFC and thus most of the team's Sunday afternoon games air locally on KFMB-TV (channel 8), and had aired on KNSD from 1977 until NBC lost its rights to AFC games after the 1997 season.
- Beaumont, Texas: The Fox affiliation in Beaumont/Port Arthur moved on January 1, 2009, from low-powered KUIL-LP (UHF channel 64, now on VHF channel 12) to full-powered KBTV-TV (VHF channel 4); the switch was made as then-owner Nexstar Broadcasting Group wanted to increase KBTV's local news output. NBC experienced an affiliate downgrade as Beaumont/Port Arthur does not have enough full-power stations to support affiliates of all four major networks (only three are allocated to the market), moving to a digital subchannel of ABC affiliate KBMT (channel 12), while KUIL (now with MyNetworkTV) became an independent station. Nexstar sold KBTV to Deerfield Media in August 2012, upon which it became the only Big Three affiliate that switched to Fox and remains with the network to be operated by a Big Three station through Sinclair Broadcast Group (which acquired CBS affiliate KFDM, channel 6, in 2011)'s assumption of KBTV's operations under joint sales and shared services agreements with the purchase.
CBS saw an affiliate downgrade from VHF to UHF in an unrelated transaction in the Jacksonville–Brunswick market, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars whose Sunday afternoon games regularly air on CBS. In April 2002, Post-Newsweek Stations, owners of longtime market leader WJXT (VHF channel 4), terminated that station's longtime affiliation with CBS in a dispute over planned reverse compensation demands by the network. On July 15, 2002, Clear Channel-owned WTEV-TV (UHF channel 47), which had been the local outlet of UPN (which was then co-owned with CBS), became the market's new CBS affiliate. As a result, UPN was relegated to being a secondary affiliation on WTEV's Fox-affiliated sister station WAWS (channel 30). Both stations were eventually sold to Newport Television in 2007 and later in August 2012 to Cox Media Group, with WTEV owned by Bayshore Television and operated by Cox (via joint sales and shared services agreements) due to FCC rules 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).
Because WJXT was also essentially the default CBS affiliate for nearby Gainesville, home to the University of Florida whose football games regularly air on CBS by way of its contract with the Southeastern Conference, Gainesville's primary WB and secondary UPN affiliate WGFL (UHF channel 53) also switched to CBS in order to keep the network available in that area. The station also began broadcasting a digital signal on UHF channel 28 – now the station's virtual digital channel – to continue carrying The WB and UPN on a digital subchannel (now the area's MyNetworkTV affiliate, as well as low-power WMYG-LP), in one of the earliest instances of a subchannel being established to carry additional programming; this trend would become more prevalent following both the 2006 realignment resulting from the merger of The WB and UPN to form The CW and the 2009 transition from analog to digital television.
Growth of Fox Sports
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 and NASCAR. In addition, the National Hockey League aired on Fox from 1995 to 1999 and the Bowl Championship Series (except for the Rose Bowl) was on the network from 2007 to 2010.
It also airs coverage of the Cotton Bowl Classic and is the exclusive television home of the Daytona 500. Fox Sports' coverage now also includes four Formula One races, the final game of the UEFA Champions League, and the World Superbike event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the fall of 2011, regular season college football games from the Pac-12 and Big 12 Conferences, and the Big Ten and Pac-12 championship games were added, as well as the Ultimate Fighting Championship with four fight cards airing per year. 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.
Fox Sports' coverage also has expanded beyond broadcast television with the launches and acquisitions of several cable networks. Fox Sports Net consists of a national feed, and dozens of regional and local feeds to carry games from various professional and college sports teams along with programs related to professional, collegiate and high school sports in that region. The existing Speed channel was converted into Fox Sports 1, a national general sports network, on August 17, 2013, with the MMA and extreme sports sister network Fuel TV becoming Fox Sports 2 the same day. It also operated Fox Soccer, a soccer-oriented digital cable network that was replaced by the general entertainment FXX (a spin-off of basic cable channel FX) on September 1, 2013, as well as Fox Soccer Plus, a premium sports service spun off from Fox Soccer that continues in operation after the shutdown and replacement of its parent network.
Rise of Fox in primetime
Fox's entertainment programs have also benefited from the heavy promotion they received during the sports telecasts. Some of the beneficiaries included shows already on Fox at the time, including Beverly Hills, 90210, The X-Files and most especially The Simpsons which has broadcast on Sunday nights since Fox picked up the NFC package, and has since become the longest-running scripted American primetime television series. Fox's sports coverage has also served as a springboard for later Fox successes, including 24, Glee, Malcolm in the Middle, King of the Hill, That '70s Show, House, Family Guy, New Girl and American Idol, which became the number one rated primetime program on all networks from 2003–04 to 2010–11, the longest such streak since ratings for television were first recorded. Ironically, Idol's streak ended in the 2011–12 season at the hands of NBC's telecasts of Sunday Night Football, which the network took over in 2006 as part of the same NFL television contract that also saw ABC's venerable Monday Night Football move over to ESPN.
The strength of Fox's affiliation stock following its acquisition of NFL rights has served as a factor in its recent success as a major network. As a result of the affiliation deals, Fox now has VHF affiliates in 13 out of 16 television markets with NFL teams that are based in the NFC, including the Seattle Seahawks, who moved from the AFC to the NFC in 2002; Seattle's Fox affiliate, KCPQ, broadcasts on VHF channel 13. Only the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles are located in markets with UHF Fox affiliates, and all three of them, WFLD (UHF channel 32) in Chicago, WTXF (UHF channel 29) in Philadelphia and WJZY (UHF channel 46) in Charlotte, are owned by the network. The last of these replaced Bahakel Communications-owned WCCB on July 1, 2013 after Fox purchased WJZY (then a CW affiliate) and MyNetworkTV affiliate WMYT-TV (channel 55) from the Capitol Broadcasting Company in January 2013; 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, and also has a news department, which WJZY did not have until January 2014 as a Fox O&O. Overall, this pales in contrast to Fox's presence in AFC markets, where 11 of the 16 affiliates have their virtual channels on the UHF dial; only two of these stations, in the markets of the New England Patriots and Houston Texans, are owned and operated by Fox.
The resilience of CBS
While CBS did eventually recover, its recovery is partially linked to, ironically, re-acquiring 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 (1998 also saw the Broncos win the Super Bowl). The New England Patriots dynasty during the 2000s in the sole 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 to 1997).
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 (a former Group W station-turned-CBS O&O by the time NFL rights were reacquired that 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 (when the Steelers went to the AFC voluntarily to balance out the number of teams between conferences), Steelers road games had aired on KDKA-TV as part of the network's deal to air NFL games, while home games could not be televised at all during this period, even if they did sell out (the home game blackout rule was changed in 1973 to the current 72-hour rule).
While CBS has essentially not recovered in some of the NFC markets, the network still has affiliates with virtual channels on the VHF dial in 14 of the 16 NFC markets; only Atlanta and Detroit (where CBS had suffered some of its worst ratings declines in the affiliate switches) have affiliates with UHF virtual channels. In regards to the AFC, 14 of the 16 AFC teams are located in markets with CBS affiliates whose virtual channels are on the VHF dial, with the only exceptions being the home markets of the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars, as aforementioned, have most of their Sunday afternoon games broadcast on WTEV (UHF channel 47), while most Sunday afternoon games of the Browns are telecast on WOIO (UHF channel 19), which was Cleveland's charter Fox affiliate before swapping with WJW as a result of the New World deal (though in technicality in the digital television era, WOIO transmits over channel 10).
The Atlanta, Birmingham and Jacksonville deals proved to be costly for CBS for a second reason; all three are key Southeastern Conference markets; CBS signed a deal with the conference to broadcast SEC football games starting in 1996, in a joint deal with the Big East (now the American Athletic Conference) where games were regionally aligned until 2000, with CBS eventually making the SEC a national deal. The CBS/SEC deal, which by 2001 led to guaranteed national must-carry SEC coverage for all CBS affiliates, has been traced to the conference's domination in the sport.
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. 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. This group deal closed on July 14, 2008.
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 remains a Fox O&O to this day as a result. Local TV later swapped WBRC to Raycom Media in exchange for Richmond, Virginia CBS affiliate WTVR-TV (channel 6). 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. 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). The sale was completed on December 27, 2013.
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). 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. 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. 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. 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. Shortly afterward, CBS and Time Warner announced the merger of UPN and The WB to form The CW, whose initial schedule consisted of higher-rated programs from both networks; The CW launched on September 18, 2006, with 11 CBS-owned UPN stations and 15 WB stations owned by Tribune (the latter company chose not to exercise an ownership stake in the network) among the network's charter stations. All of the stations that CBS acquired either by the station swap with NBC or when the network itself was acquired by Westinghouse are still owned by CBS, except for KUTV which was sold to Cerberus Capital Management's Four Points Media Group in 2007 (the Four Points stations – with the exception of WLWC (channel 28) in Providence, which has since been sold to OTA Broadcasting, LLC – are now owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group).
News Corporation purchased most of the Chris-Craft/United Television stations on August 12, 2000 for $5.5 billion, creating duopolies with Fox O&Os in seven markets (while KMSP-TV switched its affiliation from UPN to Fox), all of the stations involved in the deal (with the exception of KPTV, which was sold to Meredith Corporation, and Salt Lake City's KTVX (channel 4) and San Antonio's WOAI-TV (channel 4), which retained their respective ABC and NBC affiliations, and were sold to Clear Channel Communications) remained UPN affiliates through a new four-year deal with the network. These stations later became charter stations of MyNetworkTV, which launched on September 5, 2006.
On November 3, 2010, Broadcasting & Cable magazine announced that SJL Broadcasting, now owned by the principal owners of Lilly Broadcasting, reached an agreement with Disney to buy back WJRT and WTVG for $30 million, upon speculation that Disney might sell off ABC. Both stations are expected to retain their affiliations with the network. SJL teamed up with a new private equity partner, Bain Capital, whose affiliated offshoot Sankaty Advisors provided the capital for the purchases. The sale was completed on April 1, 2011. As a result, ABC now no longer owns any television stations anywhere near Detroit, where the network had owned WXYZ-TV from its founding in 1948 until 1986 when it was sold to current owner Scripps. On October 3, 2011, McGraw-Hill announced the sale of its entire television broadcasting division to Scripps for $212 million. This group deal added four additional ABC affiliates to the six already owned by Scripps, making that company the second-largest owner of ABC-affiliated stations in total market coverage (after Argyle successor Hearst Television).
Effect in Top 10 markets
To this day, Washington, D.C. is the only Nielsen market ranked among the Top 10 in 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 had already been an affiliate of CBS since that station was founded in 1948. In January 2002, however, the Bay Area's longtime NBC affiliate, KRON-TV (channel 4), became an independent station after a bitter dispute between new KRON owner Young Broadcasting (which later merged with Media General in 2013) and NBC; after Young outbid NBC to purchase the station from its original owner Chronicle Publishing Company (publishers of the San Francisco Chronicle, which was sold to the Hearst Corporation as part of a liquidation of Chronicle's assets) in November 1999, 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 San Jose-based KNTV (channel 11), which was affiliated with The WB at the time after ending a longtime affiliation with ABC two years before, due to ABC O&O KGO-TV (channel 7) claiming market exclusivity for the network in San Jose; NBC soon bought from Granite Broadcasting Corporation thereafter. As KNTV had been serving the Monterey Bay area (50 miles south of San Jose) as its ABC affiliate – moreso than San Jose – KGO was added to cable systems in that area as compensation for the loss. ABC would not have its own affiliate in the Monterey Bay area until April 18, 2011, when local NBC affiliate KSBW (channel 8) launched a new ABC-affiliated digital subchannel.
Ironically, KSBW and then-sister station KSBY (channel 6) in San Luis Obispo (on the other end of California's Central Coast) were once owned by SCI/Gillett, which sold all of its other stations to New World. Both stations would be sold as well in 1994 to EP Communications, whose owners had family ties to News Corporation chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, and would be sold to separate owners the following year. Neither station would have been of benefit to Fox or NBC (the latter of which both stations were, and still are, affiliated with), as both markets had a lack of available full-power stations for NBC to fall back on, were outside of the Top 100 markets despite being on the periphery of larger nearby markets, and (in the case of KSBY) lost its secondary market status when the Rams and Raiders departed from Los Angeles after the 1994 NFL season.
Outside of the Top 10 markets, Pittsburgh (ranked 22nd as of 2012) was among the few major markets not to see any major affiliation changes and, aside from the Westinghouse/CBS deal that saw KDKA-TV end its pre-emptions of non-CBS programming (as well as Westinghouse moving from its longtime headquarters in Pittsburgh to New York City upon completion of its purchase of CBS), was largely not affected by any of the affiliation switches due to KDKA-TV, WTAE-TV (channel 4), WPXI and WPGH-TV having decades-long affiliation deals in place with their respective networks (in the case of KDKA-TV, it being a CBS O&O). Aside from the merger of The WB and UPN to form The CW in 2006 and the subsequent formation of MyNetworkTV that same year, and the sale in 2011 of secondary public television station WQEX (channel 16) to Ion Television, becoming WINP-TV, the last major affiliation change in Pittsburgh happened in 1954, when the DuMont Television Network sold KDKA-TV (then WDTV) to Westinghouse (thereby ironically making all former DuMont-owned stations O&Os of their current networks; WNYW in New York City and WTTG in Washington are owned by Fox).
- 1994 in American television
- 2006 United States broadcast TV realignment, the next major affiliation shuffle in America
- 2001 Vancouver TV realignment, a similar event that occurred in Canada
- Primary NFL television stations
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