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 September 1996.
- 1 NFL on Fox
- 2 New World Communications deal
- 3 Burnham Broadcasting
- 4 Repercussions
- 5 Post-switchover changes
- 6 Long-term impact
- 7 Current statuses
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 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 commercial broadcast networks in the United States at the time.
In 1987, the NFL rejected a bid by Fox to acquire the rights to Monday Night Football, then the league's crown-jewel program, from ABC. Six years later on December 17, 1993, Fox stunned the sports and television worlds by reaching a four-year, $1.58 billion contract with the NFL effective with the 1994 season to televise games involving teams in the National Football Conference (NFC) – a package previously owned by CBS – as well as Super Bowl XXXI. CBS, then run by the cost-cutting Laurence Tisch, had reportedly bid only $290 million to retain rights to the NFC television package and was unwilling to even approach the Fox offer.
At the time of Fox's bid, some of its owned-and-operated stations (except those in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Salt Lake City) and most of its affiliates were lower-powered UHF stations. As Fox put together its new sports division to cover the NFL, it sought to affiliate with VHF stations (broadcasting on channels 2 to 13) that had more established histories, and carried more value with advertisers.
New World Communications deal
On May 23, 1994, 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
- KNSD (channel 39), San Diego, affiliated with NBC
- WAGA-TV (channel 5), Atlanta, affiliated with CBS
- WITI-TV (channel 6), Milwaukee, affiliated with CBS
- WJBK-TV (channel 2), Detroit, affiliated with CBS
- WJW-TV (channel 8), Cleveland, affiliated with CBS
- WSBK-TV (channel 38), Boston, independent station
- WTVT (channel 13), Tampa, affiliated with CBS
Stations acquired from Argyle Television
- KDFW-TV (channel 4), Dallas, affiliated with CBS
- KTBC-TV (channel 7), Austin, Texas, affiliated with CBS
- KTVI (channel 2), St. Louis, affiliated with ABC
- WVTM-TV (channel 13), Birmingham, Alabama, affiliated with NBC
Stations acquired from Citicasters
- KSAZ-TV (channel 10), Phoenix, affiliated with CBS
- WBRC-TV (channel 6), Birmingham, affiliated with ABC
- WDAF-TV (channel 4), Kansas City, Missouri, affiliated with NBC
- WGHP (channel 8), High Point, North Carolina, affiliated with ABC
Several stations owned by the groups involved in the New World acquisitions were either sold to other parties or left out of the deal:
- New World retained ownership of KNSD – which remained an NBC affiliate as Fox already had a VHF affiliate in San Diego at the time, XETV (channel 6, now a CW affiliate) – and WVTM in the interim, before selling both stations to NBC for $425 million in May 1996. NBC later sold WVTM to Media General in April 2006.
- As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s television ownership rules at the time limited a single company from owning more than twelve stations (the Argyle and Citicasters purchases, combined with its existing seven stations, gave New World 15 overall) and forbade common ownership of two stations in the same market, New World placed WBRC and WGHP in a blind trust. Both stations were sold directly to the Fox network's broadcasting subsidiary, Fox Television Stations, in 1995.
- New World excluded WSBK from the Fox affiliation deal as Fox Television Stations re-acquired WFXT (channel 25), which it previously owned from 1987 to 1989. Due to the same ownership limits that led to WBRC and WGHP being sold to Fox, WSBK was later sold to the Paramount Stations Group, and became a charter affiliate of the United Paramount Network (UPN) when it launched on January 16, 1995.
- Citicasters retained ownership of WKRC-TV (channel 12) in Cincinnati, Ohio (whose NFL franchise, the Bengals, are part of the American Football Conference (AFC), to which NBC held broadcast rights at the time) and WTSP (channel 10) in St. Petersburg, Florida – both of which were ABC affiliates at the time. In the case of Tampa, New World opted to keep WTVT, which had higher viewership and a broader signal coverage area, which – unlike WTSP – included Sarasota (WTSP's transmitter was short-spaced to avoid signal interference with WPLG (channel 10) in Miami, resulting in ABC maintaining an affiliation with WWSB (channel 40) to serve the southern part of the Tampa market).
NFL connection to deal
The key to the deal was that Fox upgraded its stations in several markets. Prior to the deal, of the 14 NFC teams at the time, only four – the Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins – were located in markets with VHF Fox affiliates. The Fox stations in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. are three of the network's original six owned-and-operated outlets. The San Francisco Bay Area affiliate, KTVU (channel 2), was owned by Cox Enterprises at the time, and would not be acquired by Fox until 2014.
Most of the stations involved in the New World deal were located in markets with teams in the NFC, which at the time was considered the more prestigious of the two NFL conferences. In particular, the conference had teams located in nine of the ten largest television markets at the time – with the exception of Boston, whose NFL team, the New England Patriots, played in the AFC. Also, most of the NFC teams existed before the formation of the predecessor 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 to join Fox were CBS affiliates in markets where NFC teams were located, therefore fans would continue to see at least their team's road games on (the same) local VHF stations.
NFC teams in markets related to deal
- 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 deal
KTBC and WITI served markets containing significant fan bases for nearby NFC teams. KTBC had aired Cowboys games (including during the preseason) for years, while WITI had broadcast Packers games to its Milwaukee audience since it switched to CBS (from ABC) in 1977 (through the 1994 season, the Packers had played select regular season games in Milwaukee); due to Green Bay being a sweeps-only Nielsen market with paper diary-only measurement for most of its history, the larger Milwaukee market was (and continues to be) often cited more for ratings purposes by the NFL and networks that carry the league's games than the numbers for the smaller Green Bay market. In Cleveland and Kansas City, WJW and WDAF respectively aired Browns (except during the team's temporary deactivation from 1996 to 1998) and Chiefs games only when Fox aired a game featuring an NFC opponent (ironically in Kansas City, WDAF aired most of the Chiefs' games as an NBC affiliate).
In 1995, St. Louis became the ninth NFC market with a VHF Fox affiliate as a result of the Rams' relocation from Los Angeles, and KTVI – the ninth station (and the sixth in an NFC market) involved in the New World deal to switch – affiliating with the network. That year, the Carolina Panthers joined the NFL as an expansion team, which made WGHP another satellite "home" station for an NFL team as the Panthers are based in Charlotte, which is directly south of the Piedmont Triad region where WGHP is situated.
Because of the time it took for the FCC to approve News Corporation's investment in New World and the subsequent Burnham station purchases (as well as waiting for affiliation contracts to expire), the old, "lame duck" affiliates carried Fox's NFL telecasts as late as the 1995 season in some markets. For example, most Cowboys games aired on KDAF (channel 33) in Dallas and KBVO (channel 42, now KEYE-TV) in Austin, while the Lions were seen on WKBD-TV (channel 50). WCGV-TV (channel 24) in Milwaukee carried Packers games until WITI's CBS affiliation ended on December 1, 1994, the only break in that station's carriage of the team's games since it rejoined CBS in 1977. New Orleans Saints games were carried on WNOL (channel 38) until December 1995.
In March 1994, Fox and Savoy Pictures established a venture called SF Broadcasting. Fox held no voting stock in the company (which instead was held entirely by Savoy Pictures chairmen Victor Kaufman and Lewis Korman), but supplied 58% of the original $100 million capital. Weeks after the New World deal, SF acquired four stations owned by Burnham Broadcasting:
- KHON-TV (channel 2), Honolulu, Hawaii, affiliated with NBC
- WALA-TV (channel 10), Mobile, Alabama, affiliated with NBC
- WLUK-TV (channel 11), Green Bay, Wisconsin, affiliated with NBC
- WVUE (channel 8), New Orleans, affiliated with ABC
SF Broadcasting purchased WLUK-TV on July 29, 1994 for $38 million, and WALA, KHON and WVUE one month later on August 25 for $229 million. The deal gave Fox upgrades in the home markets of the Packers and the Saints, giving Fox VHF affiliates in 11 of the 15 NFC markets. On September 23, 1994, NBC filed a petition to the FCC challenging the purchase of WLUK, alleging that SF was a shell corporation created by News Corporation to circumvent FCC limits on the amount of capital a foreign company can invest in an American television station; NBC withdrew the petition on February 17, 1995, and the FCC approved the deal two months later on April 27.
Burnham spun off ABC affiliate KBAK-TV (channel 29, now a CBS affiliate) in Bakersfield, California to Westwind Communications, a company founded by several former Burnham executives. The season after WLUK first began carrying the Packers as a Fox station (1996), the team won Super Bowl XXXI, the first Super Bowl televised by the network.
The affiliation changes officially commenced on April 17, 1994, when KARD, an ABC affiliate based in Monroe, Louisiana, switched its affiliation to Fox. On September 12, 1994, WJW-TV and WDAF-TV became the first stations involved in the agreement with New World to become Fox affiliates (New World had finalized its acquisition of KSAZ-TV and WDAF only three days before the latter switched from NBC to Fox). The affiliation changes formally concluded on September 1, 1996, when WBRC officially joined Fox as an owned-and-operated station.
With ABC, NBC and CBS suddenly in need of new affiliates in the markets affected by the New World and Burnham deals, major affiliation shakeups began to occur. In some markets (such as Kansas City, Austin, Cleveland and Honolulu), the old Fox affiliates simply took up the previous affiliation of the new Fox affiliate; in other markets (such as Detroit and Phoenix), the former Fox station affiliated with a network that was not the prior affiliation of the new Fox outlet, resulting in swaps involving multiple stations. The shakeups involving the Big Three networks were mostly along station group lines, which also affected markets where neither New World or Burnham had stations.
WBRC's switch in Birmingham resulted in the most complicated swap, in which six stations changed affiliations. Since WBRC's affiliation contract with the network did not expire until September 1996, ABC had a year to find a new affiliate. It reached a unique deal with Allbritton Communications Company in which WCFT-TV (channel 33) and WJSU-TV (channel 40), the respective CBS affiliates for Tuscaloosa and Anniston (which were both collapsed into the Birmingham market in 1998), would jointly become the ABC affiliate for central Alabama. However, because reception of both stations was poor in Birmingham proper, Allbritton purchased low-power station W58CK (channel 58, now WBMA-LD), also making it an ABC affiliate as well as the main station of the cluster. Gadsden Fox affiliate WNAL (channel 44, now WPXH-TV) became the CBS affiliate for northeast Alabama – the second in the area, alongside Birmingham's WIAT (channel 42) – before becoming the Pax TV (now Ion Television) O&O for Birmingham in 1999. WTTO and WDBB (channels 21 and 17), the Fox affiliates for Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, became independent stations before affiliating with The WB in February 1997.
Among the many deals that resulted, ABC reached a group agreement with the E. W. Scripps Company in June 1994, renewing affiliation agreements with the company's two largest stations (WEWS (channel 5) in Cleveland and WXYZ-TV (channel 7) in Detroit), and switching the affiliations of four other stations (NBC affiliate WMAR-TV (channel 2) in Baltimore; CBS station WCPO-TV (channel 9) in Cincinnati; and two Fox affiliates set to be displaced by the New World deal, KNXV-TV (channel 15) in Phoenix and WFTS-TV (channel 28) in Tampa) to the network. McGraw-Hill and the Allbritton Communications Company also expanded their relationships with ABC, adding a combined five affiliates (two of which maintained satellite stations, including the W58CK/WCFT/WJSU cluster in Birmingham) as part of deals that renewed agreements with existing ABC stations owned by both companies.
Westinghouse Broadcasting (popularly known as Group W), concerned over its top-rated Baltimore station WJZ-TV (channel 13) losing its ABC affiliation to WMAR-TV, reached a deal to affiliate WJZ-TV and two of its NBC affiliates (WBZ-TV (channel 4) in Boston and KYW-TV (channel 3) in Philadelphia) with CBS on July 14, 1994, as part of a deal that renewed affiliation agreements with KDKA-TV (channel 2) in Pittsburgh and KPIX (channel 5) in San Francisco. KYW-TV's switch to CBS prompted the network to sell its longtime Philadelphia O&O WCAU-TV (channel 10), which New World briefly considered purchasing, to NBC. NBC traded KCNC-TV (channel 4) in Denver and KUTV (channel 2) in Salt Lake City to CBS, while CBS-owned WCIX in Miami swapped transmitter facilities and channel frequencies with NBC-owned WTVJ as compensation for the trades.
As a result of losing the NFL television rights to Fox, CBS 's problems accelerated as it struggled to compete in the ratings (lagging behind ABC and NBC, but placing ahead of Fox) with a slate of programming that attracted an older audience than the other networks; As a direct result of the New World-Fox alliance, only six of the new CBS affiliates were VHF stations (including KTVT (channel 11) in Dallas-Fort Worth; KSTW (channel 11) in Seattle–Tacoma and KPHO-TV (channel 5) in Phoenix, although KSTW would lose its CBS affiliation to the market's previous affiliate, KIRO-TV (channel 7), on June 30, 1997); in Atlanta, Detroit and Milwaukee, CBS found itself in the extremely undesirable situation of ending up on low-profile UHF stations with far less transmitting power and viewer recognition than their previous affiliates or even the UHF affiliates that CBS affiliated with in other markets, due in part to unwillingness by other local stations to switch to the then-struggling network. While the former CBS affiliates in the three markets were all considered to be ratings contenders, ratings for CBS programming locally dropped significantly after the network moved to the lower-profile UHF stations, which had virtually no significant history as a former major network affiliate or as a first-tier independent station. The network's viewership eventually recovered, and CBS became the most-watched broadcast television network in the U.S. by 1999.
One major positive that came from the deal was an increase in local news programming on the new Fox affiliates, a benefit that came as the network had demanded that its affiliates launch newscasts in the run-up to the launches of Fox News Channel and the Fox NewsEdge affiliate news service in late 1996. The new Fox affiliates retained most of their existing newscasts, but expanded their morning newscasts by one or two hours and early evening newscasts by a half-hour to replace news programs aired by their former network, with the majority also adding newscasts in the final hour of primetime (9:00 or 10:00 p.m., depending on the time zone). However, most of the twelve stations involved in the New World-Fox deal chose not to carry Fox's children's programming block, Fox Kids, which resulted in Fox's decision to allow its owned-and-operated stations and affiliates to drop the block if another local station was interested in airing it. A complication of this was that religious-secular independent KNLC (channel 24) in St. Louis, owned by the New Life Christian Church, chose to air ministry messages (dealing with controversial topics such as abortion, same-sex marriage and the death penalty) instead of commercials during the block's program breaks, resulting in Fox moving the block to KTVI in September 1996.
Many of the new Big Three UHF affiliates found difficulty gaining an audience, and all but two of them had to give in to launching newscasts to back up the national news programs provided by the networks. Five stations affected by the switches – WEVV-TV (channel 44) in Evansville, Indiana (which became a CBS affiliate after losing its Fox affiliation to WTVW (channel 7, now a CW affiliate) through a separate deal), WWJ-TV (channel 62) in Detroit, KDNL-TV (channel 30) and WXLV (channel 45) in the Piedmont Triad – failed to gain traction with their competitors with their local newscasts and eventually either cancelled or outsourced them (although WWJ-TV, KDNL-TV and WXLV have since made other attempts at news programming in some form to mixed results). Generally, the stations that continue to air newscasts to this day have generally finished in third or fourth place behind their VHF competitors, although some have experienced gradual ratings growth.
Fox continued to upgrade its stations in at least two unrelated deals struck later:
- In August 1994, Fox Television Stations purchased ABC affiliate WHBQ-TV (channel 13) in Memphis 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 (channel 24, now WATN-TV) assumed the ABC affiliation on December 1, 1995.
- On September 8, 2002, UPN affiliate KMSP-TV (channel 9) in Minneapolis–St. Paul, the home market of the Minnesota Vikings, became a Fox affiliate, trading affiliations with WFTC (channel 29, now a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station). A similar swap occurred that year in Portland, Oregon, when Meredith Corporation swapped the affiliations of Fox affiliate KPDX (channel 49) and newly acquired UPN affiliate KPTV (channel 12); KPTV and KMSP were previously affiliated with Fox from 1986 to 1988, when they both disaffiliated from the network due to issues over its then-weakly performing programs. Fox had purchased both stations as part of its 2001 acquisition of Chris-Craft Industries' television station group, but traded KPTV to Meredith in exchange for WOFL (channel 35) in Orlando and its Gainesville semi-satellite WOGX (channel 51) in 2002.
Another switch occurred in San Diego on August 1, 2008, when KSWB-TV (channel 69) – one of 16 charter CW affiliates owned by Tribune Broadcasting – became a Fox affiliate, swapping networks with XETV. 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 the majority of its stations are on UHF, which then brand by their dominant cable channel slot rather than their broadcast channel allocation; as such, KSWB is branded as "Fox 5" and only uses its over-the-air channel position as its PSIP virtual channel, in legally required station IDs and (previously) a short sweep of a "Fox 69" logo in the bug seen during its newscasts. With the switch to Fox, Tribune re-established a news department for KSWB (which produced a primetime newscast from 1999 to 2005, before production was taken over by KNSD through a news share agreement). 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) (ironically, Chargers games had aired on KNSD from 1977 to 1997).
CBS saw an affiliate downgrade from VHF to UHF in an unrelated transaction in the Jacksonville, Florida-Brunswick, Georgia market – home of the Jacksonville Jaguars (whose games air on CBS through its rights to the AFC) – after Post-Newsweek Stations announced in April 2002 that it would end the network's affiliation with WJXT (channel 4) due to a dispute over planned reverse compensation demands by CBS. On July 15, 2002, WTEV-TV (channel 47, now WJAX-TV) became the market's CBS affiliate, with Fox-affiliated sister station WAWS (channel 30, now WFOX-TV) assuming its displaced UPN affiliation as a secondary affiliation. The loss of the CBS affiliation on WJXT, which became an independent station, caused a switch in nearby Gainesville (home to the University of Florida, whose football games regularly air on CBS through its contract with the Southeastern Conference), where primary WB/secondary UPN affiliate WGFL (channel 53, now on channel 28) switched to CBS in order to keep the network available in that area; UPN and The WB were relegated to a digital subchannel of the station (now affiliated with MyNetworkTV, as well as low-power WMYG-LP), one of the earliest instances of a subchannel being established to carry a major network prior to the 2006 realignment resulting from the merger of The WB and UPN to form The CW.
Out of the CBS affiliates in the 16 AFC markets, WJAX-TV and Cleveland affiliate WOIO, in the home market of the Browns, are the only stations which have virtual channels corresponding to the UHF band. WOIO (which actually transmits its digital signal over VHF channel 10) was Cleveland's charter Fox affiliate before swapping affiliations with WJW as a result of the New World deal, and has even held rights to the teams' preseason games from 1988 as a Fox affiliate until 1995, and in 2005 as a CBS affiliate. Currently, WOIO only airs the Browns' CBS game telecasts, due to conflicts between the team and WOIO's news department over coverage about personal issues involving team players and ownership; NBC affiliate WKYC carries the bulk of the team's preseason games and other Browns programs.
On July 1, 2013, CW affiliate WJZY (channel 46) in Charlotte, North Carolina became a Fox owned-and-operated station, after Fox Television Stations purchased it and MyNetworkTV-affiliated sister station WMYT-TV (channel 55) from the Capitol Broadcasting Company that April. The switch resulted in an upgrade for The CW through the network's move to displaced Fox charter affiliate WCCB, as that station broadcasts on UHF channel 18, and also has a news department (becoming one of a handful of news-producing CW-affiliated stations as a result), which WJZY did not have until January 2014 as a Fox O&O.
Another notable switch involving an AFC market occurred in Indianapolis, Indiana, after Tribune Broadcasting announced on August 11, 2014 that WTTV (channel 4) would become the market's CBS affiliate through a deal that renewed affiliations on the company's five existing CBS stations; the WTTV deal was spurred by a dispute between station management at WISH-TV (channel 8) and the network during affiliation renewal negotiations over reverse compensation demands. WTTV originally planned to move its CW affiliation to a digital subchannel upon the January 1, 2015 switch until Tribune decided to sell The CW's Indianapolis affiliation rights to WISH owner Media General (which had completed its merger with that station's former owner LIN Media three days earlier) on December 22, 2014, with WTTV operating its subchannel as an independent station instead. The switch was an upgrade for The CW, due to WISH's prior history as a major network station and the fact it had a news department; it was also an upgrade at least for WTTV even if it was arguably one for CBS, as the station had not been a major network affiliate since losing the ABC affiliation to WLWI (channel 13, now NBC affiliate WTHR) in 1957, had not maintained a news department since 1990 or aired any newscasts of its own since 2002 (the newscasts Tribune re-established for WTTV upon the switch use resources from Fox affiliate WXIN (channel 59)'s existing news department, but compete against and maintain anchor teams largely separate from its sister station). In fact, the major impetus of the deal was that it allowed WTTV to become the local broadcaster of the Indianapolis Colts through CBS' rights to the AFC.
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, Fox aired National Hockey League games from 1995 to 1999 and the Bowl Championship Series (except for the Rose Bowl) from 2007 to 2010. Other former properties include Formula One races (now held by NBCSN) and the Cotton Bowl Classic (which moved to ESPN in 2015). Fox Sports' coverage also has expanded to encompass several cable networks, led by its Fox Sports Net chain of regional sports networks and Fox Sports 1.
In the fall of 2011, Fox added regular season college football games from the Pac-12 and Big 12 Conferences, and the Big Ten and Pac-12 championship games, as well as four matches per year from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. England's FA Cup final came to the network on May 11, 2013. In August 2013, Fox Sports signed a deal to broadcast the three major open championships of the United States Golf Association, including the U.S. Open, starting in 2015. Current Fox Sports properties seen over-the-air also include exclusive coverage of the Daytona 500 and the final game of the UEFA Champions League. In addition, the World Superbike Championship races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway were moved to Fox Sports 1 in 2013.
Rise of Fox in primetime
Fox's entertainment programs have also benefited from the heavy promotion they received during the sports telecasts, including shows it already aired at the time (such as Beverly Hills, 90210, Married...with Children, The X-Files and The Simpsons), as well as newer programs (such as American Idol and 24). In fact, Idol was the highest-rated primetime network program for eight consecutive seasons, from 2003-04 to 2010-11, the longest such streak in U.S. television history.
The resilience of CBS
While CBS eventually recovered, its recovery is partially linked to, ironically, re-acquiring NFL rights in 1998 when it took over the AFC television contract from NBC. The last year that NBC held the AFC rights 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 AFC rights, the trend of the 1980s and 1990s reversed, in that the AFC became the dominant conference over the NFC. The New England Patriots dynasty in the 2000s in the only top-10 market at the time with an AFC franchise and no NFC team 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 (which was a CBS O&O by the time CBS re-acquired the NFL rights, and has long been one of the network's strongest stations) and often earn the highest television ratings for an NFL team due to the Steelers' rabid fanbase on a national level. Coincidentally, before the AFL-NFL merger, the team's road games had aired on KDKA as part of CBS' deal to air NFL games, while home games could not be televised at all during this period, even if they did sell out.
Impact on NBC
As CBS took the hardest hit from the switches, due partly to having been relegated to lower-tier affiliates in several major markets, NBC became the most-watched network in the United States, as it not only experienced the fewest effects of the switchover, but also benefited from a strong slate of programming at the time (including Friends, Frasier, Seinfeld, ER and Dateline NBC). NBC would maintain its ratings lead until 1999, the year after it lost the AFC television rights to CBS, which overtook it for first place. After Friends and Frasier ended their runs in 2004, NBC largely struggled in the ratings until 2013; however, one of the few shows to earn strong ratings during the period was Sunday Night Football, which moved to the network in 2006 from ESPN as part of the same NFL television contract that saw ABC's venerable Monday Night Football move to ESPN. NBC Sunday Night Football eventually beat Fox's American Idol to become the most watched program on U.S. television starting 2012.
On July 17, 1996, News Corporation announced that it would acquire New World outright, making the latter company's twelve Fox affiliates owned-and-operated stations of the network; the deal was completed on January 22, 1997. Today, six of the New World stations that switched to Fox (KDFW, WAGA, WJBK, KSAZ-TV, WTVT and KTBC) are owned by 21st Century Fox – a company created out of the July 2013 separation of News Corporation's entertainment (including Fox and its related broadcast and cable television assets, but excluding the company'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 were formerly owned by New World (WJW, KTVI, WDAF-TV, WITI-TV, WBRC and WGHP; Fox also announced it would sell WHBQ-TV, KDVR (channel 31) in Denver and KSTU (channel 13) in Salt Lake City). 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). On December 21, 2007, Fox sold eight of the stations – excluding WHBQ – to Local TV, a subsidiary of Oak Hill Capital Partners that was formed on May 7 of that year to assume ownership of the broadcasting division of The New York Times Company. This group deal closed on July 14, 2008.
Because of FCC rules that bar same-market ownership of two of the four highest-rated stations by one company, Fox exempted WHBQ from the Local TV sale as that company already owned Memphis' CBS affiliate, WREG-TV (channel 3); Fox Television Stations took WHBQ off the sale block on January 16, 2009, retaining it as a Fox O&O. As part of its June 24, 2014 acquisition of KTVU and sister independent station KICU-TV (channel 36) from Cox Media Group, Fox announced that it would trade WHBQ and WFXT to Cox in exchange for the San Francisco duopoly; the deal was finalized on October 8, 2014. In 2009, Local TV 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 content sharing among all of the stations; the Local TV/Tribune stations also made up the nucleus of the Antenna TV digital subchannel network. Tribune purchased Local TV outright for $2.75 billion on July 1, 2013, adding the seven former Fox O&Os to the six Fox affiliates it already owned, making Tribune the largest owner of Fox-affiliated stations by total market coverage (surpassing the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which remains the largest Fox affiliate owner by total number of stations owned and/or operated). The sale was completed on December 27, 2013.
SF Broadcasting sold its stations in 1997 to Silver King Broadcasting (later USA Broadcasting, which later sold its remaining independent stations to Univision Communications in 2001 to form the nucleus of the present-day UniMás network); Silver King later sold the four Fox affiliates 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, which ironically was purchased by LIN in 2012); KHON was among the stations acquired by Media General in its 2014 merger with LIN, while the company respectively sold WLUK and WALA to Sinclair Broadcast Group and Meredith Corporation due to ownership conflicts with two existing Media General stations, ABC affiliate WBAY-TV (channel 2) and CBS affiliate WKRG-TV (channel 5) in the Green Bay and Mobile markets. In May 2008, Emmis sold WVUE – whose sale process was made more difficult in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which greatly affected its New Orleans viewing area – to the Louisiana Media Company, founded by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson; the sale closed on July 18, 2008. 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 two – WTVW (channel 7, now a CW affiliate) in Evansville and WAWV-TV (channel 38, now an ABC affiliate) in Terre Haute – that were affected by the network's 2011 dispute with Nexstar Broadcasting Group over reverse retransmission consent compensation), remain Fox affiliates.
Westinghouse purchased CBS on August 1, 1995, resulting in all of the CBS-affiliated Group W stations becoming CBS O&Os when the sale was completed that November. 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. CBS still owns the stations that it acquired either through the station swap with NBC or through its merger with Westinghouse, except for KUTV, which was sold to the Four Points Media Group in 2007 (the Four Points stations – with the exception of WLWC (channel 28) in Providence – are now owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group).
On November 3, 2010, ABC sold WJRT and WTVG back to SJL Broadcasting, now owned by the principal owners of Lilly Broadcasting, for $30 million On July 24, 2014, Gray Television purchased both stations for $128 million. On October 3, 2011, McGraw-Hill sold its television stations to the E. W. Scripps Company for $212 million, adding four ABC affiliates to the six Scripps already owned, making that company the second-largest owner of ABC-affiliated stations by 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 City, Los Angeles and Chicago that did not 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 and its major network affiliates remain the same, it did not become a Top 10 market until 2005–06, surpassing Detroit.
San Francisco was also unaffected by the 1994 switches, as Westinghouse-owned KPIX-TV had been a CBS affiliate since it signed on in 1948. However in January 2002, KRON-TV (channel 4) became an independent station after a bitter dispute between NBC and the station's then-owner Young Broadcasting (which merged with Media General in 2013); after Young outbid NBC to buy the station from the 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 under the conventions of an NBC O&O as a condition of renewing its affiliation; Young refused these demands, along with the affiliation renewal. NBC then struck an affiliation deal with, and subsequently purchased, Granite Broadcasting Corporation-owned KNTV (channel 11) in San Jose, which became a WB affiliate in 1999, after agreeing to disaffiliate from ABC due to a market exclusivity claim for the network in San Jose by ABC O&O KGO-TV (channel 7). As KNTV had been serving the Monterey Bay area as its ABC affiliate – more so than San Jose (located 50 miles (80 km) to the north) – KGO was added to cable systems in that area as compensation for the loss (Salinas NBC affiliate KSBW-TV (channel 8) would later launch an ABC-affiliated digital subchannel on April 18, 2011).
- 1994 in American television
- 2006 United States broadcast TV realignment – the next major affiliation shuffle in America, involving the shutdowns of The WB and UPN and the subsequent launches of The CW and MyNetworkTV
- 2001 Vancouver TV realignment – a similar event that occurred in Canada involving five television stations in southern British Columbia
- Primary NFL television stations
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