Beginning Sept. 1, Sinclair Broadcast Group will add a Fox affiliation to a subchannel of its NBC affil WTOV Wheeling, W.Va.-Steubenville, Ohio (DMA 159). In addition to the Fox network lineup, the new channel will air syndicated shows including Steve Harvey, Family Feud and Celebrity Name Game, and by Jan. 1, 2015, a 10 p.m. local newscast. Over-the-air households will need to rescan their tuners. WTOV also airs MeTV on another subchannel.
The Nexstar independent station — and the market’s former Fox affil — is back as the market’s Fox home on March 1. The move comes following a settlement of an antitrust lawsuit between Nexstar and Granite Broadcasting, owner of NBC affil WISE, which has been carrying Fox on a subchannel since 2011.
Fox’s standard affiliation contract makes clear that Fox has the right to take back an affiliation immediately when it acquires a different station in the market. “Everybody is nervous as all get out” that Fox may have other markets in its sights, said one Fox affiliate group operator, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Fox’s Jack Abernethy said the motivation behind the Charlotte buy was to get an O&O in another NFC market.
The move is a result of Fox’s buying Capitol Broadcasting’s CW and MNT affiliates there, WJZY and WMYT. Jim Babb, EVP-COO of WCCB owner Bahakel Communications, says they were informed of the move Monday morning and are “already exploring various options.”
The new affiliation deal runs through 2017 and includes an option for Sinclair to buy Fox’s Baltimore MNT affiliate WUTB, while giving Fox the option to buy three MNT stations from Sinclair. For the WBFF Baltimore renewal and WUTB option, Sinclair is paying up to $53 million.
With the release of letters this week between the network’s Chase Carey and Affiliate Board Chairman Brian Brady on retrans sharing, the relationship is strained, to say the least. With Fox threatening to dump affils that don’t give it what it wants and the stations calling it a fight for their very survival, it’s time for both sides to take a step back. I don’t think Fox really wants to disrupt its distribution to 65% of the country. It’s made its point. Now, it’s time to give a little so that affiliates can more easily absorb what amounts to a hefty new cost, one that many really weren’t figuring on.
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The group owner extends contracts with the network through 2012.