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CBS loses trio of affils to Fox

Fox Broadcasting has signed four new affiliates, bringing its national coverage to 95%.

Two of the stations were CBS affils: WJKZ-TV in Wilmington, N.C., and KECY-TV serving Yuma and El Centro, Calif. KDBA-TV in Palm Springs is a low-power satellite of KECY-TV that carries CBS programming, and the fourth station, WFAY-TVFayetteville, N.C., was an independent. All are majority-owned by Robinson Everett.

While on the surface the switch of the two CBS affils appears to be football related, execs at both CBS and the stations say the two had differences of opinion over several issues, including how the stations could improve coverage, and that is what drove the stations to Fox.

In this case, both Fox and CBS may be happy. CBS feels that its other stations surrounding Wilmington and El Centro provide ample coverage, while Fox gets two new affiliates.

Everett wins, too. CBS was against him boosting his low-powered Palm Springs station to full power, while Fox has given the go-ahead.

Since acquiring the rights to the NFL’s National Football Conference, Fox has signed on 10 new full-time affiliates and has added about two dozen secondary affiliation agreements. Of the 20-plus secondary affiliation agreements Fox has inked, almost all are ABC affils. Fox had kept its secondary affiliates quiet but revealed many of them earlier this week in a letter to the FCC (Daily Variety, Wednesday, April 13). The FCC had expressed concern that the movement of NFC games from CBS to Fox would affect the availability of games via broadcast television.

When Fox first started going after primary and secondary affiliates in the 47 markets — or 7% of the country where it has no affils — to bolster its football coverage, most industry observers expected CBS stations to be at risk. But so far, aside from the two switches that would have happened anyway (CBS had terminated its relationship with Everett the same day the latter told CBS he was switching to Fox), the eye web has had only one station — WSBT-TV South Bend, Ind. — sign a secondary agreement with Fox.

Instead, it is ABC that has seen some 20 affils sign secondary deals with Fox. Both networks have warned affils about signing such agreements. CBS has said it won’t tolerate delays of “60 Minutes” to accommodate football and will take the show away from offending affils, while ABC said it would do the same with post season baseball.

Preston Padden, Fox’s senior vice president, said the network has “great respect for all three networks and we don’t think these football deals will have a material adverse impact on any other network.”

Besides football, secondary affiliates will also carry much of Fox’s primetime programming in dayparts where there is no primary network programming.

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