The group says that since the DOJ blocked its acquision of a CBS affiliation in Casper that would have given it essential retrans revenue, it’s merging news operations at its NBC affiliate KCWY Casper, Wyo., with those of its KGWN in Cheyenne and cutting back in Casper.
Gray Television is drastically cutting back news at NBC affiliate KCWY Casper, Wyo., blaming the Justice Department’s refusal to allow Gray to also own a CBS affiliate in the market for the move.
Currently, KCWY has 15 professionals producing 3.5 hours of news each weekday and one hour on Saturday and Sunday, according to a Gray statement released this afternoon.
By April 9, KCWY and Gray’s KGWN Cheyenne, Wyo., will merge news operations as Wyoming News Now.
They will simulcast news in the morning, at noon, in latenight and on weekends, but air separate market-focused newscasts in Casper at 5 p.m. and Cheyenne at 5:30 p.m.
Gray will keep four reporters in Casper.
KCWY will replace its 6 p.m. newscast with Jeopardy.
“Quite simply,” the statement says, “Gray has been forced to take this unfortunate action because DOJ blocked our acquisition of the CBS affiliation contract for our Casper low-power television station late last year.
“As part of that transaction, we would have added local news to the CBS stream, added that CBS channel to CBS All Access and several OTT platforms, replaced Rapid City, S.D., signals in Sheridan and Gillette, Wyo., with local Wyoming signals; and donated the CBS station’s FCC license to the local PBS affiliate.
“We have invested $2 million in our Casper station in just the past few years to improve the news product and make the operation more efficient.
“Nevertheless, the small size of the market combined with fierce competition from MVPDs, Google, Facebook and much larger unregulated companies have caused us to lose money every year.
“As we told DOJ, unless we acquire the CBS affiliation and thereby trigger a second retransmission revenue stream to offset our losses, we would be forced to eliminate most local news in Casper.
“DOJ was not persuaded by the value of preserving a competitive local news operation in this market nor by any of the other public interest benefits that the transaction would have permitted.”
Gray said it will try to place employees laid off from the Wyoming news merger in other Gray markets.