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Combined to sell WGBO-TV to Univision network

Combined Broadcasting has reached an agreement to sell Chicago indie WGBO-TV to the Spanish-language Univision network, sources said.

WGBO is significant because Warner Bros., which is seeking to form a fifth network, has a commitment from Tribune-owned WGN-TV in Chicago to carry the weblet only until it interferes with the station’s sports commitments. That should take two or three years.

Paramount and Chris-Craft’s rival fifth network has already captured the market’s only other available independent station, the powerful WPWR.

It could not be determined if Univision would establish a Spanish-language format on WGBO or continue to broadcast in English for at least part of the day.

If WGBO goes all-Spanish, it would leave WB without a broadcast outlet in the nation’s third-largest market. The weblet would have to work out some sort of long-term relationship with WGN, whose parent company Tribune has an option to buy into the WB Network later, or find a cable alternative.

WGN plans to send out a superstation feed of the WB network nationally to give it cable penetration in markets where it has no broadcast coverage.

WGBO management informed staffers of the sale at a staff meeting Friday, with sources saying that Univision is set to take control of the weak indie in January 1995.

WGBO general manager Randy Swanson failed to return calls Friday and Univision officials could not be reached for comment.

Prior to its weblet relationship with Par, Chris-Craft had negotiated to buy WGBO and Combined’s Miami station, WBFS. Chris-Craft’s talks with Combined collapsed, however, and now Renaissance Communications is looking to buy the Miami station from Combined.

Renaissance, incidentally, already operates WDZL in the Miami market, which had initially committed to WB and later switched allegiances to Par/Chris-Craft. Renaissance owner Michael Finkelstein has adamantly denied rumors that he changed sides after Chris-Craft threatened to buy the Combined station.

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