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Fox, Viacom shuffle pack of TV stations

Stations gain major-market duopolies

Fox Television Stations and Viacom have swapped TV stations in several markets, giving both companies additional major-market duopolies.

Fox will trade its recently acquired UPN affiliate KBHK-TV in San Francisco for two of Viacom’s stations, WDCA-TV in Washington, D.C. and KTXH-TV in Houston, both of which are UPN affiliates.

The acquisition would give Viacom a duopoly in San Francisco, the nation’s fifth largest market, where it already owns CBS station KPIX. Deal would give Viacom’s Television Stations Group seven duopolies. It already has them in Philadephia, Boston, Dallas, Miami, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, News Corp. would gain duopolies in Washington, D.C., where it owns Fox O&O WTTG, and in Houston, where it owns the Fox station KRIV. Fox has duopolies in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Phoenix, in addition to one proposed in Minneapolis.

Craft-y move

The FCC changed its rules in 1999 to allow companies to own two stations in a market. Duopolies are allowed if there are at least eight TV stations remaining after a deal and the combo is not between one of the four stations. Duopolies have been a popular tool for station groups to expand their reach without violating the FCC’s station ownership cap.

The Fox-Viacom switch comes following FCC’s recent approval of Fox’s purchase of 10 Chris-Craft stations, the company wants to consolidate its station operations and swap stations in order to create additional duopolies. As part of the deal, the FCC ordered News Corp. to reduce the reach of Fox’s owned stations to meet the 35% station cap.

Fox recently agreed to swap Chris-Craft’s KTVK-TV in Salt Lake City, an ABC affiliate, and its San Antonio NBC affiliate, KMOL-TV, to Clear Channel Communications in return for WFTC-TV, the Minneapolis Fox affiliate.

If the exchanges are approved by the Department of Justice, the FTC and the FCC, Fox’s national audience reach would be reduced to approximately 39%.

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