WSVN without Fox? It’s possible if….

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen this reported at all by South Florida media. Yes, they’re still consumed and reeling from the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day, but this involves THEM, darnit, and they know it.

generic newspaper

There was nothing in the Miami-Herald, Sun-Sentinel, or New Times about it, nor TV stations WSVN and WSFL which could be at the center of it.

It’s the possibility WSVN-Channel 7 in Miami-Fort Lauderdale may lose its Fox affiliation.

I told you here, here, here and here, if the Sinclair-Tribune merger goes through — and the new company has to spin off stations to stay under the limit in order to get Federal Communications Commission approval — then the plan is that Fox itself will buy several Tribune stations – all Fox affiliates already – but also WSFL-Channel 39, which is South Florida’s CW affiliate. Then, what would happen to programming on both stations?

WSFL

Fox TV stationsFox doesn’t own too many stations compared to other groups — even if you find 28 in 17 cities, covering more than 37 percent of American homes astounding. (But the Fox Television Stations Group’s website STILL doesn’t list them, as I’ve written time and time again.)

Of course, putting WSFL on the block goes against Sinclair trying to buy up stations in every city around the country – or just make a deal with the owners to operate them, to get around the rules. That’s because neither Sinclair nor Tribune have any other stations in Miami.

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair now, without Tribune

WSVN’s owner is Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corporation. He inherited it. In case you didn’t know, I started my TV news career there.NFL Logo

Fox has been trying to buy TV stations in NFL football cities, and Miami is one of them, but would it give up WSVN’s good ratings and help from its large news department, just to have a station of its own?

From the sixth borough, in a New York minute: YES. There is no more partnership in television. Everything is just to make a buck. Don’t forget that. It’ll repeat over and over as you read.

Look at what happened on a Saturday in January, 1987. I remember returning from the synagogue, going to my grandparents’ condo, and reading in the Miami Herald business section that NBC was buying WTVJ-Channel 4 even though WTVJ was the CBS affiliate, and WSVN was the NBC affiliate. Both networks wanted to own stations in Miami, which was growing and close to Cuba for coverage when Fidel Castro’s government collapsed. (Now, 31 years later, Fidel is dead and we’re still waiting. Typical!)

Of course, NBC didn’t want to own a CBS affiliate and CBS didn’t want its affiliate owned by NBC, but there was a two-year affiliation agreement that had just started at the beginning of the year between NBC and WSVN.

Owner Ansin fought like hell and sued to keep his NBC affiliation since he had stayed with the network during the extremely lean years before The Cosby Show put the network back on the map in 1984.

WSVN 7 logo

Of course, he hadn’t put so much emphasis on his news department since he didn’t have to. Remember, I mentioned at one point owning a TV station was a license to print money, so it wasn’t necessary.

Anyway, you would think CBS would end up affiliated with WSVN, but that’s not what happened. CBS owner Larry Tisch thought that if NBC bought WTVJ for $240 million and he can buy independent WCIX-Channel 6 for a quarter of that — just $60 million — then he got a bargain!

WCIX had its own 10pm news program but Tisch didn’t realize the importance that WCIX’s signal was 30 miles to the south of the other stations, and could not be seen in northern Dade (Miami-Dade came in the mid-1990s) or Broward counties.

In 1995, CBS lost a lot of stations to Fox. It really wanted stations. Westinghouse formed a joint venture before buying CBS, which left them with two stations in Philadelphia. The partnership kept Westinghouse’s KYW-TV, so in exchange for CBS’ WCAU, NBC gave CBS KCNC-Denver, KUTV-Salt Lake City, and also exchanged frequencies in Miami so its station would cover the entire market.

Ratings sucked for years until the two stations, WTVJ and WCIX, switched dial positions (4 to 6, and 6 to 4), and WCIX became WFOR.

Watching Channel 4 that night:

Watching Channel 6 that night:

Before then, affiliation agreements tended to be two years. I mean, how could you sign an affiliation agreement that’s longer than an FCC license to broadcast? That would be chutzpah! And if the station got in trouble and had its license revoked, then there wouldn’t even be a station affiliate partner.

Ansin held out and ended up with the new Fox network. He also had his news director Joel Cheatwood throw everything at crime-heavy local news — in which he could keep all advertising money – with younger, cheaper workers, and surprisingly it stuck, so everyone involved became a hero, the station’s style was copied everywhere and many working there departed for new, higher-paying jobs. And WSVN was temporarily taken off some hotel cable systems, so not to scare tourists!

Then look at San Francisco. NBC wanted to buy its longtime affiliate, KRON. The network really, really wanted to buy it. In 1999, the deYoung family decided to sell and NBC threatened to take away the station’s 50+ year affiliation and make the station worth hundreds of millions of dollars less, if it didn’t get to buy the station. (Can you say steal, extortion, or shakedown?) Still, KRON’s owners sold to a higher bidder, Young Broadcasting. NBC ended up making several more demands, which Young turned down, so KRON turned independent after all those years, at the end of 2001. (Young was bought by Media General, which was bought by Nexstar.)

kron

NBC pretty much invented its own Bay Area station, step by step.

KNTV 1KNTV in San Jose was an ABC affiliate that network didn’t want competing with its own San Francisco station, KGO-TV, in San Jose anymore. It agreed to take money from the Alphabet network and go out on its own — but it offered to pay NBC to affiliate with it. (Just like at the end of 2014, NBC got rid of WMGM in Atlantic City so it wouldn’t compete with its own WCAU in Philadelphia, but that station’s owners got nothing. Unfortunately, times changed.)

KNTV 2NBC had to get a new station and reverse compensation was a new, tempting concept. The FCC reclassified KNTV from a Monterey-area station able to be seen in San Jose, to an actual San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland station.

KNTV 3But the affiliation only lasted long enough for permissions given and the ink to dry. Weeks before the start of 2002, NBC bought KNTV for a fraction of KRON’s price. Finally, in 2005 and against KRON’s objections, NBC moved KNTV’s signal 52 miles closer to San Francisco, so people there could actually watch Peacock programming over the air again. (NBC apparently didn’t care about those people too much!) Now, it can’t be seen over the air in San Jose, but reread the words I just put in italics in the parenthesis.

KNTV 4Other fiascos: KNTV was over the air on Channel 11 but aired on cable channel 3 (conveniently next to KRON-Channel 4). Some genius running the transition decided to brand the station NBC3, which confused people to the east watching NBC affiliate KCRA in Sacramento, also a Channel 3. Then it became NBC11. Then simply NBC Bay Area.

See what I mean? Watch KNTV news opens through the years, from city changes to affiliate changes  to branding changes.

And Miami people, you’ll remember my former co-worker.

WHDH logo 1Now, take Boston from just last year. NBC wanted to own a station there. It insisted our old friend Ed Ansin sell his NBC affiliate WHDH-Channel 7 to them, just like it would’ve preferred back in Miami in the late 1980s. Anson refused yet again, saying NBC offered half what it was worth and trying to steal it.

(Yes, Ansin got back into business with NBC in Boston, rather than Fox, after CBS dropped WHDH, even after NBC dropped him in Miami. Why? To make money, of course!)WHDH logo 2

So in early 2016, NBC announced it would drop Ansin’s WHDH and start a new station called NBC Boston on New Year’s Day?

Where would that station be found? Nobody else was selling their station. NBC had ended up with New England Cable News, which was owned by Hearst and NBC parent company Comcast’s predecessor, until Hearst sold its share. Over the air, it already owned a weak Telemundo channel in the northern part of the market, WNEU-Channel 60 in New Hampshire. Its signal definitely wasn’t going to cover the entire Boston TV market over the public airwaves.

WHDH logo 3Ansin sued NBC again, claiming the poor people of Boston wouldn’t be able to watch NBC anymore, which kind of made him look like a monopolist. Lawmakers were also concerned, especially because if people had to buy cable to watch NBC, they would have to use Comcast which of course owns NBC! Regulations for fairness were put in place back when Comcast bought NBC Universal in 2011. For example, Comcast’s cable service couldn’t benefit from the ability of viewers to receive the network over the air, and NBC Universal programming had to be made available to any competing cable operators in town.

WHDH logo 4This is what the network did in 2016:

— NBC bumped the Telemundo signal to a WNEU sub-channel, and put NBC on the main channel.

— It bought WBTS-LD (low-powered) Channel 8 (which it couldn’t make more powerful without interfering with channel 8s in New Haven, Conn. and Portland, Maine.

— It leased a subchannel of WMFP (virtual channel 60.5) in Lawrence, Mass.

NECN Logo 2015

nbc bostonSo, by expanding NECN’s news department, it invented its own station out of nowhere!

That station, called WBTS-NBC Boston, went on the air Jan. 1, 2017. WHDH became an independent, added more news and lost some prominent people to the more prestigious NBC.

nbc10 bostonIn 2018, NBC added a channel-sharing agreement with digital Channel 44, under the license of Channel 15, a CD station meaning low power analog often with a digital companion.

It also changed the branding to NBC10, which is like repeating the San Francisco-Sacramento issue, because Providence NBC affiliate WJAR — seen on cable in Boston’s southern suburbs — is powerful on Channel 10. We’ll see how long that lasts!

So Boston got an extra station and most lost viewers since the pie had an extra piece. Was it worth it for NBC, or should it have just kept its affiliation with WHDH?

So Anton got shot down by NBC again, this time in Boston, and that could lead to several other, minor network affiliation changes. For example, in 2006, Ansin bought a second Boston station, CW affiliate WLVI, coincidentally from Tribune. (Just the signal, but not the building or workers. Everyone was laid off, maybe even the producer who beat me for an Emmy Award back in 1997!) Warner Bros. and CBS own the CW Network, and the Tribune stations were a big part of the affiliates. Since Tribune doesn’t own WLVI anymore and CBS owns former UPN independent WSBK, the CW affiliation could move there. (More on this later!)

wlvi 3

By the way, Ansin sold WLVI’s broadcast frequency in the FCC’s recent spectrum auction for an undisclosed amount that he told the Boston Globe was “a lot of money” (definitely hundreds of millions of dollars) and now that station shares WHDH’s channel.

There are several other examples:

In the mid-1990s, NBC decided to replace its Raleigh-Durham affiliate, WRDC-Channel 28, because it did poorly and didn’t carry all of NBC’s programs. That’s when The Outlet Company bought Channel 17, increased its power and changed its call letters to WNCN. Plus, there was already a relationship. Outlet owned powerful NBC affiliates in Providence (mentioned just above) and also Columbus, Ohio.

After a year, Outlet sold all three stations to NBC but that only lasted a decade. Repeat after me: It’s the money, and not what’s best for the viewer or community. In 2006, NBC sold all three stations plus its station in Birmingham to Media General. (Yes, that was NBC selling stations, the opposite of what this post is about!) The Media General time also lasted just a decade. NBC decided to affiliate with the more powerful WRAL, and WNCN soon became a CBS affiliate owned by Nexstar, after that company bought Media General.

Around the same time, NBC planned to sell its Miami station, WTVJ – weaker on Channel 6 after the dial swap – to Post-Newsweek, then the owner of ABC affiliate WPLG. That never panned out, despite both stations saying it would.

WPLG said it was going to happen:

WTVJ said it was going to happen:

Remember the rule about a company owning two of the four most powerful stations in a city.

And Fox played hardball to get a station in Charlotte, home of the NFL’s Panthers which started playing in 1995. One-time ABC affiliate WCCB-Channel 18 was one of Fox’s strongest affiliates and it had (and still has) its own news department.

Despite that, in 2013, Fox announced it was going to buy CW affiliate WJZY-Channel 46. The switch happened less than six months later. WCCB turned to the CW after 27 years with Fox. It’s now one of just three CW affiliates in the eastern time zone with its own newscasts, the others being New York and Indianapolis’ former CBS affiliate.

On the other hand, Fox’s WJZY carried 10pm newscasts from competing stations until starting its own newscasts in mid-December. The station tried experimenting but things didn’t go well, its news was ranked fifth in the time period and there was staff turnover from the top, down. Eventually, it became more traditional and a friend from Philadelphia became its news director.

So networks can create stations out of practically nothing, as we just saw Fox do.

Consider Los Angeles. The CW in there is KTLA, which is owned by Tribune and would be owned by Sinclair. There’s no reason Warner Bros. and CBS would keep the CW affiliation there when CBS has an independent station, KCAL, that could use it.

the CW

In Miami, if Fox buys WSFL, the CW affiliate now owned by Tribune could become a Fox affiliate if the network decides to drop WSVN. Then, WSFL’s CW affiliation would likely NOT go to WSVN but to WBFS, which is owned by CBS and a My Network TV affiliate, for what that’s worth. (Not much.) And that syndication service is owned by Fox!

MyNetworkTV

Would WSVN, dropped by Fox, become an affiliate of My Network TV, which is owned by Fox? Highly unlikely, I think. My Network TV doesn’t do well, Ansin would be angry, and even though he went back to NBC in Boston, My Network TV isn’t NBC.

Keep in mind, there are also examples where networks own stations but don’t put their own programs on those stations, because affiliating with competing stations makes more sense.

CBS owns Channel 44 in Tampa, but affiliates with Tegna’s Channel 10. It owns Channel 69 in Atlanta but affiliates with Meredith’s Channel 46. It owns Channel 11 in Seattle but affiliates with Cox’s Channel 7 (but it did air CBS on 11 for a few years.) It used to own Channel 34 near West Palm Beach but affiliates with Sinclair’s Channel 12.

Even in 1958, when CBS owned Channel 18 in Hartford, Conn., some viewers could watch CBS better on Boston and Providence stations, so it affiliated with Channel 3 (then WTIC-TV; now WFSB, where I went after leaving WSVN) and sold its Channel 18.

You get the picture. So who brings more to the table? WSVN can use CNN for news and not depend on Fox. Anything can happen, but you know what my money is on.

And please, if you like what you read here, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and get an email whenever I publish.

7777

Something on my drive home from New York, Tuesday night, told me to write this post.

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Facebook, Twitter, and Fox (Fox x 14)!

Two articles got my attention as I recover, tonight. You’ll remember yesterday, I couldn’t read or even think.

Now, look how far I’ve come — and for how many hours!

The first, called How Facebook Can Grow Its Media ‘Likes’ by Harry A. Jessell on TVNewsCheck continues the discussion I wrote on Rupert Murdoch saying Mark Zuckerberg should pay him and other reliable news publishers for posting its content on Facebook. (See? I agree with something Jessell wrote!)

The smart people, myself included this time, have been saying media organizations should get readers to their own sites and other media they control, and not be a slave to Zuckerberg’s whims.

My favorite line from the article?

“The move is a slap at news media that have fully embraced Facebook, hiring people to manage interaction with it, building workflows around it and searching for ways to monetize it.”

I love it! Shows Lenny was right and his last employer was wrong! (I mean the parent company and that’s if there was any doubt. Murdoch’s Fox TV Stations Group finds Facebook very, very important. Of course the company wants money after investing so much time and labor into it, but that was their choice and they weren’t alone.)

ftvlive
http://www.ftvlive.com/sqsp-test/2018/1/25/does-he-have-any-identifying-features

The other article comes from what many would consider a gossip site but I investigated further, since it used a tweet from WTXF-Fox 29 in Philadelphia, where I used to work.

FTVLive‘s Scott Jones showed a tweet from midday Wednesday of a man with what you might call distinguishable, unique characteristics. It was obviously to make fun of the guy, or more likely his choices in life.

Having worked for a Fox-owned TV station, rather than an affiliate, I can tell you web editors pretty much put local stories on the web. They also try to find articles from out of the area that will get clicked. What usually happens is that one station — whether it happened in their area or not — writes it and offers to share it with the other stations, which may choose to accept it or not. If they accept it, then they can tease it on social media or not.

From my experience at a Fox-owned TV station, the web editors are responsible for teasing on Facebook and the assignment editors — who listen to police scanners, call to confirm information, talk to reporters, make suggestions, coordinate live shots on the ground and with the (shared) chopper, and take calls from people who belong in padded cells, etc. — also are responsible for tweeting out information that’s local or happens to be on the website. In the case of local news, it takes away from talking to newscast producers and web producers, but that’s a different story for a different day.

So FTVLive‘s post got me thinking: How many other Fox-owned stations did the same thing? Let’s look, in TV market size.

This is Philadelphia’s, that was shown…

This was Washington’s…

This was Houston’s…

This was Phoenix’s…

And this was Austin’s.

These are the facts:

  1. The tweets were posted from Jan. 23 through Jan. 25.
  2. The story happened in Ohio. It didn’t belong to any of the Fox-owned stations. They don’t own any stations in Ohio! They used to own WJW-Channel 8 in Cleveland, but sold it, but may soon buy it back. (See below.) That shows you how much they really care for the community, doesn’t it?
  3. The Philadelphia people may tell you Ohio is only one state away, but it’s really more than 300 miles away. Police actually thought Cleveland Facebook killer Steve Stephens may have been in Pennsylvania. Not here. The story happened near Cincinnati, on the complete opposite side of Ohio, across the river from Kentucky.
  4. The guy in the pictures above, Michael Mann, isn’t wanted anymore because he was CAUGHT and booked into jail on Thursday, Jan. 25, and arraigned in court on Friday, Jan. 26. He’s being held in lieu of $200,000 bond.

Was this hard to find out? Absolutely not. (Most of) Cincinnati’s TV station websites had it. Click here for the Queen City’s NBC affiliate WLWT, CBS affiliate WKRC and Fox affiliate WXIX (owned by Raycom).

A phone call made by anybody at any of the Fox-owned stations could’ve confirmed this for more than a dozen stations but nobody cared enough to follow up. Looking at a crazy dude for a day and get clicks was all they wanted. Certainly not journalism. Certainly nothing that mattered to the viewers in their cities.

By the way, I could not find the story on websites belonging to Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO, headquarters of its owner Scripps, or the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper.

So you saw some tweets. Now to the article.

It was written by somebody in TAMPA of all places, and almost every Fox-owned station accepted the share and it’s now published verbatim on their websites, headline and all.

Click to check the articles are identical, again by TV market order, with an exception I’ll explain in a second.

Los Angeles     Chicago     Philadelphia     Dallas     Washington     Houston     Tampa     Phoenix     Detroit     Minneapolis     Orlando     Charlotte     Austin

I couldn’t find the article on San Francisco nor Atlanta’s sites. Maybe they didn’t accept the share. Maybe they had real news that concerned their communities. Maybe they just missed it. (Yes, Mann is a hard man to miss, but the stations only see the headlines without pictures.) You’ll have to ask them for their reasons.

mann complete article

Notice a few things about the article. The headline talks about the guy and at this point, doesn’t mention wanted or caught. But the lead says, “An Ohio man is wanted…!” Item #4 above explained he’d already been caught.

Then, the article was updated at the bottom with an embedded Facebook post from Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Crime Stoppers. First, that should’ve been the LEAD. Second, the person in Tampa who wrote it (or was called by another station to write it because the other stations were technically not able) should’ve realized the lead written earlier said he was still wanted! And third, nobody from any of the other stations in all these big cities even bothered to notice!

Pitiful.

For a moment, I was VERY impressed and surprised with New York for actually rewriting the article. The did so a day later. Unfortunately, they never mentioned anywhere that he was caught!

ny version complete
http://www.fox5ny.com/news/wanted-man-window-assault

My “favorite” part is the special phone number at the end for any New Yorkers who happened to be traveling to the Cincinnati area to call if they run into this guy. Wouldn’t most see him and automatically call 911?

As you can imagine, I’m disgusted with my former field. I’ve been saying…

“I didn’t leave journalism, but journalism left me.”

…to several people recently, and I’ll have more to write about — not necessarily this specific company — in the coming days.

I’m not saying other TV station groups don’t do the same thing, but earlier I mentioned this started by seeing “a man with what you might call distinguishable, unique characteristics” on “what many would consider a gossip site,” and then went on a wild goose chase. Look what I caught!

Who knows how often something like this happens? Fox people — corporate and/or local — am I right or wrong? Are you serving the public interest? Comment below.

One last thing: So Fox is big when it comes to sharing. It costs little. Next week, the Federal Communications Commission may let Sinclair Broadcast Group buy Tribune Media but force Sinclair to sell off a bunch of stations because it’ll be (way, way, way) too big.

Reports are Fox will buy ten of those stations. That means, as I wrote earlier this month about the company:

earlier

Cleveland, are you listening?

And also from earlier this month, don’t expect a list of Fox-owned TV stations on the Fox Television Stations Group‘s website, no matter how many times I put up the link. That would be too relevant!