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Repercussions of the 1994 United States broadcast TV realignment
The 1994 United States broadcast television realignment consisted of a series of network affiliation switches and other transactions 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 agreement between Fox and New World resulted not only in Fox affiliating with stations with histories as major network affiliates but also various other deals, most notably the buyout of CBS by Westinghouse, that caused several other broadcasting companies to reach affiliation deals that either extended ties with networks to which some of their stations had already been aligned or created new network relationships.
The repercussions of this realignment were gradual but swift, with nearly 70 stations in 30 media markets throughout the United States changed affiliations between September 1994 and September 1996. Fox ascended to the status of a major television network, comparable in influence to the Big Three television networks (CBS, NBC and ABC), while CBS was dealt the major blows of losing both its NFL broadcast rights and key affiliates in several major markets to Fox. All three major networks also wound up affiliating with stations that broadcast on the UHF band in a few cases, the vast majority of which operated as either Fox affiliates or independent stations prior to the switches; most of the new Big Three affiliates also created news departments from scratch or expanded their existing ones.
On December 17, 1993, Fox signed a four-year, $1.58 billion contract with the National Football League (NFL) to televise games involving teams in the National Football Conference (NFC) as well as Super Bowl XXXI, effective with the 1994 season. CBS, then run by the cost-cutting Laurence Tisch, which was reportedly unwilling to approach Fox's bid and offered to pay only $290 million to renew the contractual rights to the NFC television package. The deal stripped CBS of professional football broadcasts for the next four years, before resuming its broadcasting relationship with the NFL when it acquired the television rights to the American Football Conference (AFC) from NBC in 1998.
In order to bolster the network's new NFL television package, Fox sought to reach affiliation deals with VHF stations (broadcasting on channels 2 to 13) that had established histories as major network affiliates, and carried more value with advertisers. 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. As a result of the deal, New World also signed a group affiliation agreement with Fox to switch most of the company's television stations to the network beginning in September 1994. Twelve stations – six that New World had already owned and eight that the company was in the process of acquiring through purchase deals with Argyle Communications and Citicasters struck before the agreement was made – would join the network.
SF Broadcasting, a venture between Fox and Savoy Pictures, purchased four television stations owned by Burnham Broadcasting in two separate deals reached in July and August 1994 for a combined $267 million; the deal resulted in Fox also signing a separate agreement to affiliate these stations (three NBC affiliates and one ABC affiliate) with the network. The New World agreement and Burnham Broadcasting purchases resulted in Fox gaining VHF affiliates in ten NFC markets – eight that were the home markets of teams in the conference, and two that were secondary markets of nearby franchises.
The deals caused major affiliation shakeups in the markets affected by the deals, as ABC, NBC and CBS immediately began seeking new affiliates, although the agreements that came about also created a domino effect of all three networks switching affiliate partners in certain markets where neither New World nor Burnham owned stations.
Scripps/ABC affiliation deal
In June 1994, ABC and the E. W. Scripps Company renewed affiliation agreements with the company's two largest stations, WEWS (channel 5) in Cleveland and WXYZ-TV (channel 7) in Detroit. In addition, Scripps agreed to affiliate four of its other stations, including two affected by the New World deal, with ABC:
- NBC affiliate WMAR-TV (channel 2) in Baltimore, replacing WJZ-TV (channel 13);
- CBS station WCPO-TV (channel 9) in Cincinnati, replacing WKRC-TV and reversing an affiliation switch that occurred in 1961;
- KNXV-TV (channel 15) in Phoenix, which was slated to lose Fox through the New World deal, replacing market-leading KTVK (channel 3).
- WFTS-TV (channel 28) in Tampa, which was also to be displaced by Fox, replacing WTSP.
Prior to the deal, WXYZ and WEWS were both being courted to affiliate with CBS. As a contingency plan if WXYZ-TV did switch to CBS, ABC purchased its Flint, Michigan affiliate WJRT-TV (channel 12) and NBC affiliate WTVG (channel 13) in Toledo, Ohio – whose signals covered the Detroit market – from SJL Broadcast Management. However, ABC had to run WTVG (which as WSPD-TV, was a primary ABC affiliate from 1958 to 1969) as an NBC affiliate for two months, while the latter network searched for a new affiliate; NBC ended up with Toledo's former ABC affiliate, WNWO-TV (channel 24). ABC's purchase of WJRT, along with CBS' affiliation agreement with WNEM-TV, resulted in NBC affiliating with former CBS affiliate WEYI-TV (channel 25). Separately, Scripps also signed a deal to affiliate another displaced Fox station, KSHB-TV (channel 41) in Kansas City, with NBC, picking up the affiliation from WDAF-TV.
Westinghouse/CBS affiliation deal
The recruitment of WMAR-TV as Baltimore's new ABC affiliate concerned Westinghouse Broadcasting (popularly known as Group W), the broadcasting division of Westinghouse and owner of WJZ-TV (channel 13), as WJZ was one of ABC's strongest affiliates (as well as its longest-tenured affiliate) in contrast to perennial third-place WMAR (which CBS left for then-NBC affiliate WBAL-TV (channel 11) in 1981 over dissatisfaction with its frequent preemptions of CBS programs and the poor ratings performance of its newscasts). Group W had already held discussions with several networks – including CBS, NBC and Fox – for group-wide affiliation deals before the Fox-New World partnership was announced; these talks accelerated once ABC announced its agreement with WMAR.
On July 14, 1994, Group W agreed to affiliate WJZ-TV, and NBC affiliates WBZ-TV (channel 4) in Boston and KYW-TV (channel 3) in Philadelphia with CBS; while renewing affiliation agreements with KDKA-TV (channel 2) in Pittsburgh and KPIX (channel 5) in San Francisco, which began carrying the entire CBS schedule that September as a condition of the deal. WJZ-TV and WBZ-TV switched to CBS on January 2, 1995, followed by KYW-TV on September 10; in Baltimore and Boston, NBC respectively affiliated with former CBS outlets WBAL-TV and WHDH-TV (channel 7).
KYW-TV's switch to CBS prompted an additional swap between CBS and NBC, involving KYW and WCAU-TV (channel 10) in Philadelphia – which CBS had owned since 1958 – resulting in switches in three other markets. At one point, New World had considered buying WCAU, which would have resulted in that station becoming a Fox affiliate (and thus allowing it to continue airing Philadelphia Eagles games, which it had done since 1950). Additionally, in August 1993, Fox announced that it would buy WGBS-TV (channel 57), which would have taken the network's affiliation away from Paramount Pictures-owned WTXF-TV (channel 29). That October, Paramount announced that WTXF would switch to UPN. Fox later chose to instead bid for WTXF in the event that New World did not purchase WCAU, and eventually purchased it outright; Paramount purchased WGBS (renaming it WPSG) and made the station Philadelphia's UPN outlet.
In acquiring WCAU, NBC traded KCNC-TV (channel 4) in Denver and KUTV (channel 2) in Salt Lake City to CBS (NBC affiliated with KSL-TV (channel 5) and KUSA-TV (channel 9) in the respective markets). As compensation for the trades, CBS-owned WCIX in Miami swapped transmitter facilities and channel frequencies with NBC-owned WTVJ. Westinghouse and CBS then formed a joint venture involving KUTV, KCNC and WCIX (which was renamed WFOR-TV upon moving to the former channel 4 position of WTVJ, which in turn moved to channel 6) with Group W as the majority (51%) owner. All of the stations involved in the deal switched on September 10, 1995.
Other station group deals
- McGraw-Hill, as part of a deal that renewed agreements with existing ABC affiliates WRTV (channel 6) in Indianapolis and KGTV (channel 10) in San Diego, also agreed to switch its two CBS affiliates to ABC: KERO-TV (channel 23) in Bakersfield, California, and KMGH-TV (channel 7) in Denver. KMGH-TV, which lost its CBS affiliation due to the deals spurred by NBC's purchase of WCAU, joined ABC on September 10, 1995; KERO-TV waited until its affiliation deal with CBS expired in 1996 before becoming an ABC affiliate.
- Sinclair Broadcast Group and Belo Corporation both renewed affiliation agreements for their ABC affiliates. However in Sacramento, California, Sinclair, then-owner of ABC affiliate KOVR (channel 13, now a CBS owned-and-operated station), agreed to swap networks with CBS affiliate KXTV (channel 10), then-owned by Belo; the two stations switched on September 10, 1995.
- Allbritton Communications Company signed a group deal with ABC, renewing agreements with its existing affiliates (including flagship WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.) and agreeing to affiliate its other stations with the network, including upstart WJXX (channel 25) in Jacksonville, Florida and simulcaster WBSG (channel 21, now WPXC-TV) in Brunswick, Georgia (both replacing WJKS-TV (channel 17, now CW affiliate WCWJ; WBSG would become a Pax TV affiliate in 2000); NBC affiliate WCIV (channel 4) in Charleston, South Carolina (replacing WCBD-TV (channel 2)); and its new W58CK/WCFT/WJSU cluster in Birmingham.
Impact on CBS
As expected, CBS bore the brunt of the changes. The network had 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 the 1988 sale of Columbia Records to Sony. When CBS lost the NFL to Fox, the "Tiffany Network" 's problems accelerated as it struggled to compete in the ratings with a slate of programming that attracted an older audience than the other networks, although it finished ahead of Fox. The Late Show with David Letterman, which often dominated The Tonight Show in its first two years, saw its viewership decline in large part due to the affiliation switches, at times even finishing third in its timeslot behind ABC's Nightline. CBS eventually recovered and surpassed the 1990s leading network NBC as the most-watched network by 1999, until it was surpassed by ABC in 2000. After briefly retaking the lead from NBC in 2002, CBS rose to first place once again in 2005, and became the most watched U.S. TV network since that year except 2008 when Fox became the country's first ever non-Big Three network to become the most watched in the United States.
CBS' problems were especially evident in the recruiting of new affiliates; as a direct result of the New World-Fox alliance, only six of the new CBS affiliates were VHF stations:
- In Dallas-Fort Worth, Gaylord Broadcasting-owned KTVT (channel 11) replaced KDFW as the market's CBS affiliate on July 1, 1995; CBS eventually purchased KTVT in 1999. KDAF (channel 33, now a CW affiliate), an original Fox-owned station, became a WB affiliate.
- As a byproduct of the KTVT deal, Seattle–Tacoma sister station KSTW (channel 11) affiliated with CBS on March 13, 1995. KIRO-TV (channel 7), which affiliated with UPN at that time, rejoined CBS on June 30, 1997 following Belo Corporation's sale of KIRO to Cox Enterprises (incidentally, in 1997, Fox planned a trade of KSAZ and KTBC to Belo in exchange for KIRO-TV, which never materialized). CBS has since acquired KSTW, which is now a CW owned-and-operated station.
- As a condition of renewing its affiliation with KCTV (channel 5) in Kansas City, CBS persuaded the Meredith Corporation to affiliate independent station KPHO-TV (channel 5) in Phoenix (which was that market's original CBS affiliate from 1949 to 1953) and NBC affiliate WNEM-TV (channel 5) in Bay City, Michigan with the network.
- The two Citicasters stations displaced in the ABC-Scripps alliance, WTSP in Tampa-St. Petersburg (which switched to CBS on December 12, 1994) and WKRC-TV in Cincinnati (which waited until WCPO-TV's contract with CBS ended in June 1996 to switch), also affiliated with CBS.
Because of the New World and Scripps deals, and other stations' unwillingness to switch to the then-struggling network, CBS found itself in extremely undesirable situations in three major markets, where it ended up on low-profile UHF stations with far less transmitting power and viewer recognition than their previous affiliates:
- In Atlanta, CBS affiliated with independent station WGNX (channel 46, now WGCL-TV), which was originally slated to become a charter affiliate of The WB. Shortly beforehand, CBS almost purchased WVEU (now CW owned-and-operated station WUPA), which broadcast on channel 69, the highest available channel in the U.S. during the later era of analog television; it would later buy that station in 2000 as a UPN affiliate. The market's former Fox O&O, WATL (channel 36, now a MyNetworkTV affiliate), became a WB affiliate.
- In Milwaukee, CBS considered importing the signals of O&Os WBBM-TV (channel 2) in Chicago or WFRV-TV (channel 5) in Green Bay, or its Madison, Wisconsin affiliate WISC-TV (channel 3), via cable due to its difficulty in finding an affiliate to replace WITI. One week before the switch, after an attempt to buy religious station WVCY-TV (channel 30) fell through, CBS struck an affiliation deal with WDJT-TV (channel 58), a general entertainment independent station with some ethnic and time-brokered religious programming. Its owner, Weigel Broadcasting, had its roots in running Chicago independent WCIU-TV (channel 26), and at the time never had any of its stations affiliated with a major network. Former Fox affiliate WCGV-TV (now a MyNetworkTV affiliate) joined UPN. As WDJT lacked cable carriage in the market, several of CBS' remaining sports properties, most notably the Daytona 500, could not be viewed on some southeastern Wisconsin cable systems in 1995 until the station could sign new carriage contracts. In 1996, WDJT moved from the Marc Plaza Hotel to a larger studio space in one of the former buildings of the Allis-Chalmers complex in West Allis and started a news department. WDJT built a new transmitter in 1999, which has transmitting power equal with the five other commercial stations in the market.
- In Detroit, finding an affiliate to replace WJBK-TV proved especially difficult for CBS. The network was unable to strike an affiliation deal with NBC affiliate WDIV (channel 4), and most of the market's independent stations either displayed disinterest or an unwillingness to enter into negotiations with CBS. CBS had earlier broken off negotiations to affiliate with WADL (channel 38), when that station's owner, Kevin Adell, began making unreasonable demands. In an eleventh-hour deal reached mere days before WJBK switched to Fox, CBS purchased WGPR-TV (channel 62) from an African-American group of Masons and changed its calls to WWJ-TV. The purchase of WGPR (notable for being the first U.S. television station to have been owned by African-Americans) by a major network instead of a minority-owned broadcaster was controversial, leading Spectrum Detroit Inc., an investment group led by Lansing-based real estate investor and broadcaster Joel Ferguson, to sue to block the purchase and gain control of the station; however, a court ruled in 1996 to allow the sale to CBS to go forward. WGPR previously had the weakest signal of any UHF station in Detroit, but CBS invested heavily in the station and significantly upgraded its facilities. The former Fox affiliate, WKBD-TV (now a CW owned-and-operated station and co-owned with WWJ-TV), joined UPN.
While the former CBS affiliates in the three markets were all considered to be ratings contenders, ratings for CBS programming in these markets 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 Westinghouse deal involving WBZ-TV resulted in CBS selling WPRI-TV (channel 12) in Providence, Rhode Island, which it had acquired months before in March 1995. That purchase was the catalyst of another affiliation switch, as the ABC affiliation in Providence moved from WPRI to CBS affiliate WLNE (channel 6). The sale of WPRI resulted from FCC rules at the time that prohibited common ownership of stations in adjacent markets with overlapping signals, with no consideration for a waiver for stations with large overlapping coverage areas (WPRI's signal carried over into most of the Boston market, whereas WBZ-TV's signal covered almost all of Rhode Island).
- In Evansville, Indiana, longtime ABC affiliate WTVW (channel 7) switched to Fox in December 1995 through a deal with then-owner Petracom Communications. At that time, ABC programming moved to WEHT (channel 25); the CBS affiliation displaced by WEHT moved to the market's original Fox affiliate WEVV-TV (channel 44). On July 1, 2011, the Fox affiliation moved to WEVV's digital subchannel, as the network disaffiliated from WTVW due to a dispute in which then-owner Nexstar Broadcasting Group objected to a plan to increase the share of retransmission revenue its affiliates paid to Fox.
- In Binghamton, New York, NBC affiliate WICZ (channel 40) began carrying Fox Kids programming in September 1995 before it officially became a Fox affiliate on April 4, 1996 after its contract with the former network expired. NBC programming was already being broadcast on WBGH-CA (channel 20), which was a former repeater of sister station WETM (channel 18) in Elmira.
- In Terre Haute, Indiana, ABC affiliate WBAK-TV (channel 38) switched to Fox in September 1995. Due to a lack of available stations in the market for ABC to maintain a full-time affiliation (WTWO (channel 2) and WTHI-TV (channel 10) are the only other commercial full-power stations in Terre Haute), this left viewers with only fringe access to out-of-market ABC stations, including WEHT, WRTV in Indianapolis and WICS/WICD (channel 20 and 15, both now affiliated with NBC) from Champaign-Decatur, Illinois. Due to the same dispute that led WTVW to lose its Fox affiliation in 2011, what had become WFXW rejoined ABC and changed its call letters to WAWV-TV, while Fox moved to a subchannel of WTHI.
- In San Diego, UPN affiliate KUSI-TV (channel 51, now an independent station) tried unsuccessfully to take the Fox affiliation away from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico-licensed XETV, citing FCC regulations preventing any foreign station outside of the United States from airing live American sporting events without an FCC-approved license; Fox was eventually granted the permit to allow XETV to carry the games.
- In Honolulu, where its longtime affiliate KHON joined Fox, NBC courted ABC affiliate KITV (channel 4) for an affiliation. However, after KITV was sold to Argyle Television Holdings II and opted to stay with ABC instead, NBC instead affiliated with former Fox affiliate KHNL (channel 13).
- In Rapid City, South Dakota, NBC affiliate KEVN-TV (channel 7) became a Fox affiliate in July 1996. Due to a lack of available stations in the market for NBC to maintain a full-time affiliation (KOTA-TV (channel 3) and KCLO-TV (channel 15, a satellite of Sioux Falls CBS affiliate KELO-TV) were the only other commercial full-power stations in the Rapid City market at the time), viewers were only able to access out-of-market NBC stations via local cable providers, including KUSA-TV. The market would re-gain a local NBC affiliate when KNBN-TV (channel 21) signed on in May 2000.
- In some smaller markets where Fox did not have an affiliate, the network had to strike deals with Big Three-affiliated stations to carry its football telecasts. In Wausau, Wisconsin, ABC affiliate WAOW-TV (channel 9) aired Fox's NFL broadcasts until Wittenberg-licensed Fox affiliate WFXS (channel 55) signed on in 1999 (as a result, WAOW carried up to 13 Packers games a year from 1994 to 1998 from both Fox and ABC). In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, CBS affiliate KGAN-TV (channel 2) carried the NFL on Fox package, as a result of Fox affiliate KOCR-TV (channel 28, now KFXA) ceasing operations in 1994 due to its failure to make electricity payments and eviction from its facilities. ABC affiliate WYTV (channel 33) in Youngstown, Ohio took on Fox as a secondary affiliate strictly for the NFL package, due to the ownership of the San Francisco 49ers being locally-based, as well as to be able to air Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns home games against NFC teams (the latter reasoning would temporarily become moot due to the Browns' temporary deactivation from 1995 to 1998), until CBS affiliate WKBN-TV (channel 27) launched WYFX-LP (channel 21) as a full-time Fox affiliate in 1998. (WYTV is now operated by WKBN though a shared services agreement).
- In South Bend, Indiana, where full-power affiliate WSJV (channel 28) switched to Fox in August 1995, ABC affiliated with Weigel-owned W58BT (channel 58), a low-power translator of WCIU-TV which also carried Fox programming, 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 religious organization Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association and had no intent to sell). This caused the same cable entanglements and reception problems that occurred in Milwaukee, though the market had fringe access to several other ABC stations, including its Chicago O&O WLS-TV (channel 7) and Battle Creek, Michigan affiliate WOTV (channel 41). W58BT eventually became a licensed low-power outlet under the calls WBND-LP; it did not start a limited news operation until 2008, and launched a full locally-based news department in 2011. Because of its weakness in the market, Weigel tried to sell WBND, along with sister MyNetworkTV and CW low-power stations WCWW-LP (channel 51) and WMYS-LP (channel 69), to Schurz Communications, the founding owners of CBS affiliate WSBT-TV (channel 22) in 2008. However, FCC inaction and concerns about Schurz having a virtual television monopoly in South Bend led to the deal being aborted in August 2009 (the sale would have been legal, as the FCC permits common ownership of low-power and full-power television stations in the same market).
Because Fox programmed far fewer hours of network content than CBS, NBC and ABC, this left open timeslots for the new Fox affiliates to fill via syndication. Despite this, several popular first-run syndicated programs at the time (such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! and Entertainment Tonight) were dropped by many of the New World stations – with a few exceptions – replacing them with lower-budget syndicated programs or newer series (such as Access Hollywood and Judge Judy, the latter of which has since become a staple of many Fox stations). In several of the affected markets, the stations that switched to Fox kept or later acquired some of the aforementioned programs (for example, WVUE and WLUK now air both Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!; KHON continued to carry Oprah until it ended in May 2011 and continues to carry Wheel). The new Big Three outlets that were previously Fox affiliates or independent stations also dropped some first-run and off-network syndicated programs – mainly sitcoms and children's programs – due to local programming commitments and the heavier amount of programming from their new network; the divested programs were acquired by other stations in the affected markets, primarily independents or affiliates of UPN and The WB.
Stations that were impacted by the switches began turning down weaker programs of their departing network. In Phoenix, KTVK turned down an offer to affiliate with CBS in anticipation of renewing its affiliation agreement with ABC. However, after KNXV was awarded the ABC affiliation through the Scripps deal, KTVK began pre-empting most of the network's programming. On its final day as a lame-duck ABC affiliate (January 8, 1995), KTVK only had ABC's primetime lineup, major soap operas and sports programming remaining on its schedule, with KNXV picking up the pre-empted ABC programs. In Atlanta, WAGA began turning down some weaker CBS programs on a week-by-week basis before it switched to Fox on December 11, 1994.
In 1994, Fox (which only had a few affiliates that carried local newscasts at the time) began demanding that its affiliates launch newscasts in the run-up to the launches of Fox News Channel, and their connecting affiliate news sharing service, Fox NewsEdge in late 1996 (prior to and after NewsEdge's launch, the new Fox stations as well as its news-producing charter outlets relied solely on external video feeds from CNN Newsource and in some cases, Associated Press Television News and/or the Reuters News Service to cover national and international news stories). The primary plus for the new Fox stations collectively was an increase in the amount of local news programming (in contrast with the syndication-dominant format of most Fox stations at the time), which Fox had a strong interest in as the network did not have national newscasts – the lone exception later being Fox News Sunday, a political talk show that debuted in 1996.
The new Fox affiliates retained most of their existing newscasts (though WVUE, WALA and WLUK would later drop those in the midday and, as with KSAZ and KTBC, 6:00 p.m. timeslots), but expanded their morning newscasts by one or, most commonly, two hours and early evening newscasts by a half-hour to replace news programs aired by their former network (though WAGA, WJBK, WITI, WJW and WTVT had dropped CBS This Morning in 1992 in favor of their own morning newscasts; WVUE, however, did not launch a morning newscast until 2002). WDAF, KHON and KTBC replaced evening network newscasts with local programs with a similar focus on national and international news; KHON's Hawaii's World Report, which replaced NBC Nightly News after its January 1996 switch to Fox, is the only such program that remains as of 2014[update]. The new Fox stations also added newscasts in the final hour of primetime (9:00 or 10:00 p.m., depending on the time zone), which either supplanted (such as on WJBK, WJW and WAGA) or were paired with (such as on KDFW, WDAF and WITI) existing late newscasts in the traditional 11:00/10:00 p.m. timeslot – however upon joining Fox, KTBC and KHON aired syndicated programs in the hour following Fox's primetime lineup instead, and would not add their own primetime newscasts until 1998 and 2014 respectively.
Over time, Fox affiliates that did not have existing news operations have debuted their own local newscasts, usually starting with a primetime newscast, with broadcasts in other time periods being added gradually (Fox stations in some medium and most small markets, however, have had their newscasts produced by a local Big Three affiliate through news share agreements, with some of them later ending these partnerships to start producing their own newscasts); many Fox charter stations, as well as the former Big Three stations which had aired newscasts for years, would gradually expand their news programming. Before the New World deal was announced, Fox was in the process of launching primetime newscasts on its owned-and-operated stations in Atlanta (WATL) and Dallas (KDAF), and had even hired a news director at WATL; these plans were shelved as a result of Fox affiliating with WAGA and KDFW (KDAF eventually launched a news department in 1999; while WATL would not air news until 2006, produced by then-new sister station WXIA-TV (channel 11)).
By the time of Fox's buyout of the company in 1996, some of New World's stations were still underperforming. 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 of the group's stations (except for WITI, KTVI and WJBK) retained their Big Three-era branding schemes after affiliating with Fox, but received major image overhauls between 1996 and 1998 (such as WTVT and WAGA dropping their heritage Eyewitness News branding, and KSAZ dropping its "sunset 10" logo after nearly fifteen years). In 1995, WJW controversially dropped its longtime "TV-8" and Newscenter 8 brands in favor of "Fox is ei8ht" for general purposes and ei8ht IS NEWS for its newscasts; both new brands were used fairly repititiously in promotions, until WJW rebranded as "Fox 8" when Fox purchased the station. 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 staffs. Some of these personalities eventually wound up on other stations, such as the new Big Three affiliates.
To this day, New World's Fox affiliates saw mixed results with their newscasts:
- In Tampa, after it switched to Fox, WTVT lost its first place position to NBC affiliate WFLA-TV (channel 8), which was the only major network station in the market that was not affected by the switches.
- In Cleveland, WEWS (which shunned CBS via the ABC-Scripps deal) overtook WJW-TV as the market's top-rated news station. The problems with WJW's news coverage were especially evident following the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, as it had to rely on external feeds from CNN Newsource since Fox did not have a news division. NBC station WKYC-TV (channel 3), a longtime also-ran that for years (until it sold a controlling stake in the station to Multimedia Inc. in 1990) had been used as a "farm team" outlet under NBC ownership to build up talent for its sister NBC O&Os in larger markets, began to post higher ratings for the first time in decades. WJW has since regained the ratings lead for most of its newscasts.
- In Austin, KTBC, which had long been the market's dominant news station (and the sole VHF station), fell to the bottom of the ratings behind two of its UHF competitors, NBC affiliate KXAN-TV (channel 36) and ABC affiliate KVUE (channel 24).
- In Phoenix, NBC affiliate KPNX (channel 12), the only VHF commercial station not affected by the four-station switch spurred by KSAZ-TV's move to Fox, rose from third to first place in the market.
- Some New World stations, however, have maintained their ratings dominance. In Birmingham, WBRC places first in most news timeslots, and its primetime newscast is considered one of the nation's highest-rated newscasts. After briefly falling to second behind ABC affiliate KMBC-TV (channel 9), whose reclamation of first place after WDAF's switch to Fox further intensified the rivalry between the two stations, WDAF in Kansas City has since finished at #1 in several timeslots, including in the morning and at 9:00 p.m. (in timeslots where the station does not have an absolute hold in that position, WDAF competes for second place with KCTV).
- Another key positive was also in regards to the morning newscasts on the new Fox affiliates, most of which perform competitively and even place first in the ratings, in contrast to the constant flux and upheavals with CBS' morning shows.
Many of the new Big Three UHF affiliates found difficulty gaining an audience, and whether or not they were successful depended on their previous affiliations. As these were former Fox affiliates or independents that either did not have news departments or only offered a primetime newscast at the time they switched, almost all of them had to give in to launching new newscasts to back up the national news programs provided by the networks – in some cases, replicating the previous news programming output of their new network's departing affiliate as part of the new affiliation deals. Generally, the stations that continue to air newscasts to this day have generally finished in third or fourth place behind their VHF competitors. However, while many of these stations often finish near or at the bottom of their markets' local news ratings, some – such as KNXV, WFTS, KSHB and WOIO (in the latter's case after making a switch to tabloid journalism that has garnered it national attention) – have experienced gradual ratings growth.
Furthermore, other new affiliates that launched newscasts failed to gain traction with their competitors and eventually either cancelled or outsourced their newscasts. In Evansville, WEVV-TV moved its 9:00 p.m. newscast to 10:00 p.m. (expanding it from five to seven days a week) and added newscasts at noon and 5:00 p.m. upon joining CBS in December 1995. However, due to declining ratings, its news department was shut down in June 2001. In Detroit, WKBD began producing an 11:00 p.m. newscast for sister station WWJ-TV in April 2001 (WOIO similarly had then-LMA partner WUAB (channel 43), which had been producing a primetime newscast of its own since 1988, produce its newscasts when it joined CBS). The WKBD and WWJ newscasts were canceled in December 2002 after WKBD entered into a news share agreement with WXYZ-TV to produce its 10:00 p.m. newscast, which was canceled in 2005. As a result, WWJ became the largest major-network affiliate by market size, and the only O&O of any major network at the time, without 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 debu ted First Forecast Mornings, a weekday morning newscast produced in association with the Detroit Free Press, which was cancelled in December 2012 due to low ratings.
ABC affiliates KDNL-TV in St. Louis and WXLV in the Piedmont Triad also experienced difficulty with their newscasts. KDNL, which is currently one of ABC's weakest affiliates (perhaps the weakest among the 50 largest markets is in sharp contrast to KTVI, which was one of ABC's strongest stations), shut down its news department in October 2001 after six years, which was widely blamed on a transmitter problem. From January 3, 2011 to January 31, 2014, NBC affiliate KSDK (channel 5) produced weeknight-only newscasts for KDNL through a news share agreement; KDNL now only airs weather cut-ins during Good Morning America provided by Columbus, Ohio sister station WSYX (channel 6). KDNL will resume news production in early 2015 with the debate-driven news program The Allman Report, which will be hosted by KFTK-FM radio host Jamie Allman. WXLV, which shut down its first news department on January 11, 2002, began producing an 11:00 p.m. newscast from 2004 to 2005 through owner Sinclair Broadcast Group's controversial News Central experiment; it was cancelled after Sinclair discontinued the local/national hybrid format due to poor ratings. In 2012, News 14 Carolina began producing daily newscasts for WXLV, as part of a retransmission consent dispute settlement between Time Warner Cable and Sinclair.
Fox Kids repercussions
Uncharacteristic for a major network affiliate, nearly all of the twelve stations involved in the New World-Fox deal chose not to carry Fox's children's programming block, Fox Kids, due to an interest in airing more local news. In contrast, Big Three affiliates were required to air their network's children's programming, often airing them at the time around local weekend morning newscasts (though some stations have historically preempted some portion of the networks' children's blocks); however, ABC, NBC and CBS only aired their blocks on Saturday mornings, whereas Fox Kids aired Monday through Saturdays. Conversely, the SF Broadcasting stations and other new Fox affiliates from ancillary deals spurred by the New World agreement chose to carry Fox Kids.
Owing to it being acquired by the network outright, WGHP initially cleared Fox Kids upon its switch to Fox; but by the spring of 1996, Fox had decided to allow its owned-and-operated stations to drop the block if another station in the market was interested in airing it (as the New World stations had done). That March, Fox Kids moved to WB affiliate WBFX (channel 20, now WCWG). WBRC, which had also planned to air Fox Kids, likewise allowed former Fox affiliate WTTO to continue airing the block even after it became an independent station. 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 (as a CBS O&O, WCAU did not air CBS' Sunday morning cartoons during 1978; WPVI-TV (channel 6) in Philadelphia pre-empted an hour of ABC programming even after its owner Capital Cities Communications bought the network in 1986; and after its 1987 purchase of the station, NBC was forced to run WTVJ as a CBS affiliate until its contract ended in 1989). WTTO dropped Fox Kids in 2000, with the former WBFX (renamed WTWB-TV) following suit a year later.
In St. Louis, religious station KNLC (channel 24), owned by the New Life Christian Church, began airing Fox Kids in August 1995 in lieu of KTVI; however, the church's reverend, Larry Rice, refused to show commercials during the block's program breaks, replacing them with ministry messages – some of which dealt with such controversial topics as abortion, same-sex marriage and the death penalty. Concerned about this, Fox moved the block to KTVI in September 1996, making it the only former New World station to air Fox Kids (KTVI later carried its successors FoxBox and 4Kids TV); however, the station aired the Saturday block two hours earlier than other stations, in order to air a morning newscast at 9:00 a.m. In Cleveland, WBNX-TV (channel 55, now a CW affiliate) gained an extensive children's programming inventory when it acquired Fox Kids (in lieu of WJW) in September 1994, along with several syndicated children's programs dropped by WOIO (in 1997, WBNX also added the Kids' WB block when it became a WB affiliate). Even in markets without a New World/Fox-owned station, Fox affiliates began passing Fox Kids off to another local station, usually an independent station or minor network affiliate – such as in San Antonio, where 4KidsTV moved from KABB (channel 29) to sister station KMYS (channel 35) in 2006, and Fresno, where KMPH-TV (channel 26) moved the block to sister station KFRE-TV (channel 59) in 2005.
Because of the various clearance shifts, Fox Kids/FoxBox/4Kids TV was merely a syndication package, even though Fox advertised in promos that aired during certain primetime shows that its children's programming was part of the network. Although New World stations in Atlanta, Austin, Cleveland, High Point and Phoenix had turned down the various iterations of Fox's children's program blocks (Fox Kids, FoxBox and 4Kids TV), none of them filled the Saturday morning timeslots with newscasts, carrying paid programming and local real estate presentation shows in their place; those stations, along with other Fox stations that did not air the blocks, also aired children's programs acquired via syndication – eventually incorporating series (such as Safari Tracks and Beakman's World) that meet FCC rules requiring stations to air three hours of educational and informative children's programs each week (unlike most seen on 4Kids TV) – either following a newscast or in place of it (as part of its Major League Baseball coverage, Fox aired This Week in Baseball to count towards a half-hour of E/I programming across the network, which was replaced in 2013 by the short-lived MLB Player Poll). In Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham and the Piedmont Triad, 4Kids TV was not carried in those markets after stations that had held the local rights dropped the lineup.
Owing to the preemptions and other factors (such as a pay dispute with 4Kids Entertainment, and the shift of Saturday morning children's audiences to cable television and video on demand services), 4Kids TV ended on December 27, 2008. Fox gave two of the block's four hours back to its stations, while the remaining two hours were retained to program a paid programming block under the branding Weekend Marketplace. Many of the stations which took 4KidsTV in lieu of the local Fox stations (such as WMLW-CA (channel 41) in Milwaukee) chose not to take Weekend Marketplace, along with those Fox stations; as a result, the block saw limited clearance outside of O&Os and Fox stations which previously cleared 4Kids TV. On September 13, 2014, Fox debuted Xploration Station, a two-hour syndicated block of live-action programs from Steve Rotfeld Productions that focus on the STEM fields. The block, which is designed to fulfill the FCC's educational programming requirements (stations carrying the block continue to air syndicated E/I-compliant programs to meet the entire three-hour quota), is primarily carried on Fox stations owned by Fox Television Stations and Tribune Broadcasting (including those that declined to carry Fox's earlier children's programming efforts and Weekend Marketplace); however like Weekend Marketplace and Fox's predecessor children's program blocks, the block is carried on a CW or MyNetworkTV affiliate, or an independent station in most markets.
Until the affiliation switches, Canadian television providers could carry three American commercial networks and those three only if they also committed to carry a PBS member station (per an obscure rule dating to the late 1970s, referred to by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission at the time as the "3+1 rule"), with exceptions made to allow additional stations receivable over-the-air in certain areas (as a result, some towns in British Columbia received Fox programming via KAYU-TV (channel 28) in Spokane, Washington, and the Windsor–Essex County region in Ontario received nearly the entire lineup of Detroit stations on cable and over-the-air, while towns in Alberta were denied such importation of signals). The CRTC had stated in June 1994 that it was not willing to modify this rule, but due to pressure from cable operators, by September, it allowed Canadian cable providers to pick up Fox without having to bump a Big Three network for it; the "3+1" rule thus became the "4+1" rule.
Additional changes were in store for Canadian cable providers that carried the affiliates from Detroit; while they were able to continue carrying WJBK when it switched to Fox because of the new rules, they also had to add CBS, often from its new Detroit O&O WWJ-TV; providers in Southwestern Ontario had issues receiving CBS' new Cleveland affiliate, WOIO.
- 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
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