Thursday, September 10, 2015

20 Years Ago Today…

…the CBS and NBC affiliations in Philadelphia, Miami, Denver, and Salt Lake City were swapped as a result of a deal between the two networks and Group W/Westinghouse Broadcasting.

As discussed before, Group W had struck a deal with CBS to affiliate all five of its stations with the network. WJZ-TV in Baltimore and WBZ-TV in Boston had switched on January 2, 1995. However, in Philadelphia, CBS already owned WCAU-TV on channel 10 for many years. In order for the deal to go through, CBS would have to sell channel 10 and relocate its affiliation to KYW-TV on channel 3 (which was NBC’s oldest affiliate, dating back to 1941, and where CBS would receive a 49% ownership stake from the Westinghouse stations).

New World and NBC emerged as the leading buyers for channel 10. New World planned on switching WCAU to Fox if it got hold of the station. NBC had long wanted an owned-and-operated (O&O) station in Philadelphia, so much so that it had coerced Westinghouse into swapping the KYW radio stations and WPTZ (the future KYW-TV) for the WTAM radio stations and WNBK (now WKYC-TV and owned by Tegna, the former broadcasting arm of the Gannett Company) in Cleveland in 1956. NBC threatened to pull its programming off WPTZ and WBZ-TV, as well as withhold an affiliation with Group W’s newly-acquired KDKA-TV (formerly DuMont O&O WDTV) in Pittsburgh (which would ultimately go with CBS). Immediately after the swap was completed, Westinghouse complained to the FCC, who would order a reversal of the swap in 1965.

Meanwhile, back in 1993, Fox affiliate WTXF (channel 29), then owned by Viacom through the Paramount Stations Group, had plans to become a charter station for the new UPN network with which it would be co-owned. Fox, too, wanted an O&O in Philly, so it had announced it would purchase WGBS-TV, channel 57 (now CW O&O WPSG), earlier that year. Fox was unable to get WGBS, so it turned its attention to WCAU in case New World lost its bid for the station. Viacom later had a change in plans and decided to sell WTXF directly to Fox, while at the same time purchasing WGBS to become its O&O.

With New World and Fox out of the picture, WCAU went to NBC by default. However, the network couldn’t complete the one-off purchase of channel 10 without running into heavy capital gains taxes. To avoid this, NBC and Group W/CBS arranged an “equal” deal where in exchange for WCAU, NBC would give up its O&Os KCNC-TV in Denver and KUTV in Salt Lake City to CBS, as well as WTVJ’s stronger channel 4 transmitter facility (and associated broadcast license) in Miami, to the Group W/CBS joint venture. CBS would give its existing channel 6 transmitter facility (and license) for Miami’s WCIX (which became WFOR after the switch, and returning CBS to channel 4 after a 6-year absence).

After the local airings of Saturday Night Live on September 10, the changes written into the deal took effect. In Denver, NBC moved to KUSA (channel 9, owned by Gannett and now transferred to Tegna) in a three-way swap that saw its former ABC affiliation moving to KMGH-TV (channel 7) as a result of that station’s owner, McGraw-Hill (yes, that McGraw-Hill that is well known for publishing school textbooks), signing an agreement with ABC to switch all of its stations to the network. In Salt Lake City, KUTV (channel 2) simply switched affiliations with Mormon-owned KSL-TV (channel 5). And in Philadelphia, WCAU went straight from being a CBS O&O to one of NBC. Westinghouse would acquire CBS later that year, making the Group W stations CBS O&Os, and the company would sell off all its non-broadcasting assets to become the first CBS Corporation.

Read more about the deals that led to the switches and their effects on Wikipedia.

Video relating to the switch will come soon.

Also, you may be wondering: where the hell have I been? Well, in short, I haven’t been reading and catching up on the TV news forums lately, so I haven’t had anything to write about for the past several months.

Monday, February 9, 2015

KTVU Debuts Fox O&O Look and New Branding

Exactly one week ago, the Fox affiliate-turned-owned-and-operated-station in San Francisco adopted the standardized Fox O&O branding, graphics, and music. The station is now referred to as "KTVU Fox 2" and newscasts outside the late one are KTVU Fox 2 News.

KTVU was sold to Fox last June after 50 years of ownership by the Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises in exchange for WFXT in Boston and WHBQ in Memphis. The network had long pursued after KTVU, but Cox turned them down each time. The first visible change in branding at channel 2 came in a promo that debut last month, where the new station logo and spelling for The 10:00 News were introduced. However, the longtime "laser 2" logo was retained.

I don't like the new graphics or the choice of music. While the main theme from OSI Music's "Fox Affiliate News Theme" fits most of Fox's markets, it doesn't in the Bay Area. The loud theme contrasts greatly with the orchestral "Icon News" by 615 Music that was in use a week before (the cut used by sister-station WTVT in Tampa would've fit better). The graphics look flashier compared to the last package (Honestly, the current package is still better than the previous two O&O packages. The first one from 2006 was waaaay too flashy (and still being used at former O&O WJW in Cleveland!), and while the second one was more subdued, there was still a lot of zooming). It's as if KTVU underwent a presentation whiplash. The bug looks to large, especially on the "laser 2" (I think they should narrow the "laser" part of the logo, like it was originally). However, the changes aren't enough to deter me from watching KTVU, but I'll have to get used to them. I'll miss the custom graphics and music, though.

The change to the O&O brandings also meant that the weather segments, which never had a specific branding before, are now titled as "Weather Authority" *moans*. The "Live Drive Time Traffic" reports on Mornings on 2 (the name now encompassing the entire 4:30–9:00 A.M. newscast) are now "Traffic Authority" *groans*.

There have been a few changes in the delivery and presentation of the news since the Fox purchase. Reporters no longer sign off, and crime is being de-emphasized (which some people have noted as being a staple on Cox stations). Mornings on 2 is moving to a more feature-based program like Good Day on other Fox O&Os, and morning anchors Dave Clark and Tori Campbell are now trying to show off their personalities on social media.

There have been numerous comments on Facebook where people say that they'll stop watching, just because the word "Fox" is in the news branding. In response, I posted my reason why I'll still watch KTVU:
"I want to make one thing clear: KTVU and the Fox Television Stations division are NOT Fox News or the Fox News Channel. The two are separate within the corporate structure of 21st Century Fox. While stations do air reports produced by Fox News, almost all of it is straightforward, and this comes from a guy who avoids FNC. What matters is that channel 2's personalities and the content they produce have changed little in the past several months. I dislike the new look, but graphics, music, and other cosmetic things are the least of a newscast's problems, and I'll probably keep watching channel 2 for news. If the content started taking on a Fox News-y slant, I'll stop watching at that point. However, I do kinda fear of what Fox may end up doing to all of their stations, but at the present, it is still very much watchable."
Here are the new opens, courtesy of KTVU's graphics department. And here are some videos of the evening ones in action:

Read discussion on, or talk about this in the comments.

EDIT - 2/20/15: KTVU is currently still using its old logo bug during syndicated programming and the lower third from its 2006 Hothaus graphics package for its in-program teasers for (as written before the Fox standardization) The Ten O'Clock News.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

20 Years Ago Tonight...

...The WB Television Network premiered. The opening lineup that Wednesday night was the sitcoms The Wayans Bros., The Parent 'Hood, Unhappily Ever After, and Muscle. The competing United Paramount Network (UPN) would debut five days later.

The network was organized in response to the FCC repealing the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (commonly known as "fin-syn") that prohibited networks from owning their primetime programming and from syndicating programs they produced. Other factors were the success of the Fox network (which had launched in October 1986) and the decreasing ratings of independent TV stations. Network owner Time Warner had operated a programming service called the Prime Time Entertainment Network since September 1993 with the Chris-Craft group of TV stations (also known as United Television, hence the "United" part of UPN's name, and which was coincidentally once owned by 20th Century Fox), who would be a part of the UPN network until being bought out by the News Corporation, owners of Fox, in 2000.

The Tribune Company held a minority interest in the network from day one and as a result, affiliated almost all of its stations, including WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles, and company flagship WGN-TV in Chicago, and all of which were independents, with the network (WGNX, now WGCL-TV, in Atlanta was the lone holdout; it became a CBS affiliate after New World-owned WAGA-TV dropped it for Fox as part of that group's affiliation deal, and later, WGNO in New Orleans joined ABC in January 1996 after longtime ABC affiliate WVUE-TV switched to Fox under a similar agreement). None of these stations were ever considered owned-and-operated by the network, since Tribune held only a minority stake.

Much like Fox and later, UPN, The WB had a limited launch, with programming one night a week. It soon expanded to Sunday night and Saturday morning with the Kids' WB block.

Both The WB and UPN came to an end in September 2006, when their parent companies decided to close their networks and merge their programming into a new split venture called "The CW. "

My memories of The WB were mostly of Kids' WB. I watched such shows as Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain (still a fan today, and if you don't know what those are, click on their names to read about them on Wikipedia). Several of the shows had started on Fox Kids (like the aforementioned Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series, although the latter didn't move until 1997 and in re-runs only, as the series had ended in two years prior) before moving to Kids' WB at its launch in September 1995. As later kids may remember, it was home to that smash hit known as Pokémon and that other series known as Yu-Gi-Oh! (both of which I never got into). Kids' WB continued two years into The CW's existence, when it was closed and the airtime sold to 4Kids Entertainment, who launched "The CW4Kids" in its place.

Want to read more about the network's history? Wikipedia is your friend.

Here are some clips from The WB's launch night:

Friday, January 2, 2015

20 Years Ago Today...

...the Westinghouse/Group W-owned TV stations WJZ-TV in Baltimore and WBZ-TV in Boston switched to CBS, dumping their longtime affiliations with ABC and NBC, respectively.

It all started in 1993. After acquiring the rights to the NFC from CBS, Fox sought to upgrade their affiliate lineup through station group deals, most notably with New World Communications, a company who owned mostly CBS affiliates (inherited from Storer Broadcasting) in key NFC markets. This led to more group deals involving such companies as Scripps and most notably, Group W (Westinghouse), who ended up purchasing CBS the next year. This major shakeup elevated Fox to the position of the fourth major TV network in the U.S. and sustained the growth of Fox Sports. The first of the New World stations (WJW-TV in Cleveland and WDAF-TV in Kansas City) switched on September 12, 1994, with the majority of the others switching on December 11 and 12.

After New World announced their deal, CBS began wooing longtime ABC affiliates WXYZ-TV (channel 7) in Detroit (originally an ABC owned-and-operated station, or "O&O," from its sign-on in 1948 until 1986) and WEWS (channel 5) in Cleveland to replace New World-owned WJBK-TV (channel 2) and WJW-TV (channel 8) in their respective markets. Both are owned by the E.W. Scripps Company, and as part of the renewal of their ABC affiliations, Scripps agreed to switch some of its other network affiliates. Included were KNXV-TV in Phoenix, WFTS-TV in Tampa (both were losing Fox to New World stations in their markets), and WMAR-TV in Baltimore, which would displace WJZ-TV.

Westinghouse felt betrayed by ABC after over 45 years of loyalty. They had been shopping around for a groupwide affiliation deal, but the Scripps/ABC deal pushed them proceed faster. Eventually, Group W struck a deal with CBS to switch all five of its TV stations. Existing affiliates KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and KPIX in San Francisco began carrying CBS network programming in full in the fall of 1994 (Group W had been known for preempting network programming for local shows). KYW-TV in Philadelphia had to wait until September, however, and I'll explain why when the time comes.

In Cleveland, WJW-TV on channel 8 simply swapped affiliations with WOIO on channel 19. However, in Detroit, CBS struggled to find a new affiliate. Former Fox-outlet WKBD (channel 50) was out of consideration, since it was owned by Viacom and slated to become a charter O&O of the upcoming UPN network. CBS couldn't come to a deal with NBC-affiliate WDIV (channel 4), and the other major independent stations did not want to join the network, either. CBS had negotiated with WADL (channel 38), but walked out after its owner began to make unreasonable demands. With the date for WJBK's switch quickly approaching, CBS ended up purchasing low-rated WGPR-TV on channel 62 from a group of African-American Masons, changing the its call letters to WWJ-TV (the former calls of WDIV until 1978, since both had been co-owned with WWJ radio sometime during their history). The sale was met with controversy, however. WGPR is commonly acknowledged to be the first American TV station ever owned by African-Americans, therefore, a minority-owned group sued to block CBS' purchase of the station. A judge ruled on behalf of CBS in 1996 and the deal proceeded. Channel 62 had the weakest signal of any station in Detroit, but CBS significantly upgraded its facilities to become the strongest signal in Detroit. However, this and an advertising campaign featuring Bill Cosby didn't help the network's ratings in the city, which plunged as part of the switch, and WWJ-TV remains the lowest-rated of the major network stations in Detroit.

Read more about the network affiliation switches on the Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit (Wikipedia).