While it fights an FCC investigation into its ownership structure, the Fox Network is aggressively trying to lure Big Three affiliates into the Fox affiliate camp.
Fox has set up a full-court press on its latest target, KDBC El Paso, a VHF CBS affiliate since it went on the air in 1952. Its affiliation contract has less than a year to run. Fox is stressing its carriage of the Dallas Cowboys and the many programs on its primetime schedule that appeal to Hispanic viewers, who constitute more than 60% of El Paso’s population.
While declining to comment on specific Big Three affiliates it’s going after, Preston Padden, president of network distribution for Fox, says the new pitch will focus on TV stations that have just made the switch from CBS to Fox. Exhibit A is WAGA Atlanta, which boosted its advertising revenues by $175,000 a week in January as a Fox affil compared to the same period a year ago when it was allied to CBS.
One of the reasons for the revved-up ad dollars, Padden says, is that WAGA is programming more of its schedule locally instead of flicking a switch and tapping into CBS network feeds in morning, daytime and latenight, and from 10 to 11 p.m. For its 10 o’clock news, for example, the station keeps the advertising revenues for all 12 of the commercial minutes within the hour, compared to only two minutes when it ran “Chicago Hope,” “Northern Exposure” and other CBS primetime series at 10.
On KDBC El Paso, Frank Imes, head of the Imes Communications Group, which owns the station, declined to comment on his negotiations with Fox. The general manager of KDBC, Stan Siegel, says it’ll be an extremely tough decision because “we’re getting strong ratings with such network daytime shows as ‘The Price Is Right’ and ‘The Young & the Restless’ and the latenight David Letterman program. And NCAA basketball is an incredibly big draw in this area.”