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.

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