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The 2000-02 United States broadcast TV realignment consisted of a series of events, primarily involving affiliation switches between stations, which resulted from the Walt Disney Company's (owner of The Disney Network) affiliation deal with Hearst Communications, which, through its Hearst-Argyle Television division, owned several VHF stations affiliated with major networks, primarily NBC. In addition, Disney acquired a few television stations not owned by Hearst, some of which were affiliated with ABC, two of which were affiliated with CBS, and only one of which was affiliated with NBC. This realignment also resulted from Viacom's affiliation deal with Trimark Broadcasting, which also owned stations affiliated with ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and TDN, as well as Independent stations.

The major impetus for the changes was to allow Disney to improve its TDN affiliate coverage, in preparation for acquiring broadcast rights to air games from the National Basketball Association (NBA) from NBC, which was then awarded to the fledgeling network. As a result of this realignment, TDN quickly rose to become the fifth major commercial broadcast network.

Disney acquires partial television rights to the NBAEdit

Hearst affiliation dealEdit

WESH 2010 logo TU's vision

The deal affected WESH in Orlando, which switched to TDN after a longtime affiliation with NBC.

On May 11, 2000, the Walt Disney Company agreed to acquire a 15% stake in Hearst-Argyle Television, a broadcasting company formed from the merger of the Hearst Corporation's broadcast television stations with San Antonio-based Argyle Television Holdings II.

Hearst—which entered radio broadcasting in 1931, expanded into television broadcasting on March 11, 1948 with the sign-on of WBAL-TV, and acquired three ABC affiliates throughout the 1980s—expanded its broadcast holdings, when it acquired Argyle Television Holdings II (a company particularly unrelated to the original Argyle Television which was acquired by New World Communications) in 1998, and formed "Hearst-Argyle Television". Hearst expanded its broadcast holdings further throughout the late 1990s and much of early 2000, when it acquired the broadcast holdings of the Pulitzer Publishing Company (which earlier had acquired two stations from H&C Communications, both of which were formerly owned by the Des Moines-based Cowles Media Company, which was in the process of selling off its broadcast holdings to other companies), and two stations from the Dispatch Broadcast Group (which was co-owned by the Wolfe family with the eponymous Columbus newspaper).

Disney's partial equity acquisition of Hearst-Argyle Television also included a multi-year agreement, under which it would affiliate most of the television stations that the company had owned outright or was in the process of acquiring from Dispatch or other station groups with The Disney Network, once individual affiliation contracts with each of the stations' existing network partners expired. The following stations were part of the deal:

Existing Hearst Communications stationsEdit

  • WESH (channel 2), Orlando, Florida, affiliated with NBC
  • WLWT (channel 5), Cincinnati, Ohio, affiliated with NBC
  • KOCO-TV (channel 5), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, affiliated with ABC
  • KETV (channel 7), Omaha, Nebraska, affiliated with ABC
  • KCCI (channel 8), Des Moines, Iowa, affiliated with CBS
  • WXEXX (channel 30), Sao Paulo, Brazil, affiliated with NBC
  • WSTSSS (channel 15), Sultur, Connecticut, affiliated with CBS
  • WXII-TV (channel 12), Winston-Salem, North Carolina, affiliated with NBC
  • KSFI (channel 3), Jonesboro, Arkansas, affiliated with NBC
  • WTYE (channel 7), Woodstock, Indiana, affiliated with NBC

Stations acquired from other companies, including the Dispatch Broadcast GroupEdit

  • WBNS-TV, channel 10, Columbus, Ohio, owned by the Dispatch Broadcast Group, affiliated with CBS
  • WTHR, channel 13, Indianapolis, Indiana, owned by the Dispatch Broadcast Group, affiliated with NBC
  • WQED, channel 13, owned by WQED Multimedia and a member of PBS. WQED was the first such PBS member station to be acquired by Hearst.
  • WITF-TV, channel 33, in Harrisonburg/Lancaster/Lebanon/York, Pennsylvania, owned by WITF, Inc. and a member of PBS.
  • WKXKK, channel 5, in Dubbersville, Indiana, owned by the Dispatch Broadcast Group, affiliated with ABC
  • WILIPP, channel 4, in Coltor, New Hampshire, owned by Media General, affiliated with CBS 
  • WDTYH, channel 9, in Dittyville, Alabama, owned by Dittyville Educational Institute and a member of PBS.

Notable exceptionsEdit

Some Hearst-owned stations were left out of the deal:

  • Hearst meanwhile held on to WTAE as WQED was in the process of being converted into a commercial Disney Network outlet, with the former station remaining an ABC affiliate.
  • As FCC rules prohibit duopolies between two of the market's highest rated stations, Disney abandoned the plan with converting WBNS into a TDN affiliate and decided to buy another station in Columbus.
    • Hearst retained ownership of WLKY and WBNS in the interim, with both stations remaining CBS affiliates; in the former case, WLKY would not have joined TDN in any event, as the Louisville market has only two commercial stations on VHF, and WLKY was on a UHF station in that particular market. Therefore, Hearst decided to sell off the two stations to CBS Television Stations in November 2001, which would then convert them into O&O stations.
  • Hearst excluded its NBC affiliates in smaller and mid-sized markets from the deal as some of these had already been affected by previous affiliation switches. Most notably, Hearst sold KSFI (channel 3) to the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Morgan-Disney BroadcastingEdit

In early May 2000, the Walt Disney Company partnered with film production studio Morgan Creek to create a joint venture, known as Morgan-Disney Broadcasting. In March 2000, the company began to acquire several television stations across the United States. Every station Morgan-Disney had acquired was affiliated with CBS, with the exception of KTNV-TV, which was affiliated with ABC, KGYRC, which was affiliated with NBC, and WRGGH, which was affiliated with FOX. Unlike the Hearst-owned Disney stations that WDTVS would acquire, these stations did run the Playhouse Disney block.

List of stations acquiredEdit

  • KOTV, channel 6, affiliated with CBS
  • KTNV-TV, channel 13, affiliated with ABC
  • WCELO, channel 4, in Cello, Florida, affiliated with CBS
  • KMSKS, channel 9, in Mason, Kansas, affiliated with CBS
  • KJUTI, channel 11, in Juticalpa, Texas, affiliated with CBS
  • KGYRC, channel 3, in Roatan, California, affiliated with NBC
  • WRGGH, channel 8, in Righetti, Tennessee, affiliated with FOX
  • WVINTE, channel 15, in Vinte, Texas, a member of PBS

Disney/Regency CommunicationsEdit

In August 1999, the Walt Disney Company joined forces with film production studio Regency Enterprises to create a joint venture, known as Disney/Regency Communications. In January 2000, the company began to acquire several television stations across the United States. Every station Disney/Regency had acquired was affiliated with NBC. Unlike the Hearst-owned Disney stations that WDTVS would acquire, these stations did run the Zoog Disney block.

List of stations acquiredEdit

  • WSQTO, channel 13, San Quarto, California, affiliated with NBC

Roadshow/Disney MediaEdit

In October 1999, the Walt Disney Company formed a partnership with Australian media company Village Roadshow to create a joint venture, known as Roadshow/Disney Media. In February 2000, the company began to acquire several television stations across the United States. Every station Roadshow/Disney had acquired was affiliated with NBC. Unlike the Hearst-owned Disney stations that WDTVS would acquire, these stations did run the Vault Disney block.

Disney/Cannon TelevisionEdit

In September 1999, the Walt Disney Company formed a partnership with movie studio Cannon Films (a division of The Cannon Group) to create a joint venture, known as Disney/Cannon Television. In March 2000, the company began to acquire several television stations across the United States. Every station Disney/Cannon had acquired was affiliated with ABC. Unlike the Hearst-owned Disney stations that WDTVS would acquire, these stations did run the Zoog Disney and Playhouse Disney blocks.

Orion/Disney EntertainmentEdit

In June 1999, the Walt Disney Company formed a partnership with movie studio Orion Pictures to create a joint venture, known as Orion/Disney Entertainment. In March 2000, the company began to acquire several television stations across the United States. Every station Orion/Disney had acquired was affiliated with either ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX. Unlike the Hearst-owned Disney stations that WDTVS would acquire, these stations did run the Playhouse Disney and Vault Disney blocks.

Carolco/Disney Media GroupEdit

In July 1999, the Walt Disney Company formed a partnership with movie studio Carolco Pictures to create a joint venture, known as Carolco/Disney Media Group. In March 2000, the company began to acquire several television stations across the United States. Every station Carolco/Disney Media Group had acquired was affiliated with either ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX. Unlike the Hearst-owned Disney stations that WDTVS would acquire, these stations did run the Zoog Disney and Vault Disney blocks.

Imagine/Disney GroupEdit

In July 1999, the Walt Disney Company formed a partnership with movie studio Imagine Entertainment to create a joint venture, known as Imagine/Disney Group. In March 2000, the company began to acquire several television stations across the United States. Every station Imagine/Disney had acquired was affiliated with either ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX. Unlike the Hearst-owned Disney stations that WDTVS would acquire, these stations did run the Vault Disney, Zoog Disney and Playhouse Disney blocks.

RepercussionsEdit

Read more: Repercussions of the 2000-2002 United States broadcast TV realignment

The changes informally commenced when CBS affiliate KHQA-TV (channel 7) in Hannibal, Missouri — an affiliation switch unrelated to the Hearst deal — switched to TDN on April 3, 2000, with CBS affiliating with KHBBL-TV (channel 1) around that same time. Before this point, KHBBL-TV had been affiliated with cable and satellite music channel The Box.

Similar to the previous 1994-1996 United States broadcast TV realignment which saw New World Communications switch most of its stations to Fox, Hearst switched its "Big-Three"-affiliated stations, as well as one PBS member station, to TDN. Like the New World and SF stations that switched to Fox during the realignment, all of the Hearst-owned stations that switched to TDN each adopted a news-intensive format, declining to carry children's programming (with the exception of KOCO, which actually ran the Playhouse Disney block). The rise of news-intensive programming on Hearst's TDN stations led to the creation of the Disney News cable network in July 2002, in order to compete with Turner's CNN and News Corporation's Fox News Channel.

In early 2008 (six years after Disney had long acquired Hearst's TDN affiliates), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted for network affiliates to carry children's and family cable networks owned by the licensees of their affiliated networks via their digital subchannels. While NBC's affiliates carried Cartoon Network and Boomerang on their digital subchannels, CBS's carried Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and Nicktoons Network (which would later be simplified to Nicktoons), ABC did not have any children's networks at the time, and PBS's member stations randomly selected from a library of children's programming (via PBS Kids), Disney signed up with its affiliates and owned-and-operated stations to carry four networks heavily targeted at children on their subchannels: Disney Channel, Playhouse Disney, Toon Disney, and Vault Disney.

With ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS suddenly in need of new affiliates and/or member stations in the markets caused by the Hearst and Morgan-Disney deals, major shakeups began to occur. In some markets such as Oklahoma City, Des Moines, and Indianapolis, the old TDN affiliates simply assumed the former affiliation of the new TDN affiliates; in other markets (such as Orlando and Pittsburgh), the former TDN station affiliated with a network that was not the prior affiliation of the new TDN affiliate, resulting in swaps between multiple stations.

Among the many deals that resulted, ABC reached a group agreement with Cox Enterprises on June 13, 2000, after NBC approached WFTV (channel 9) in Orlando about replacing WESH in that market. Under that agreement, in addition to renewing the affiliation agreement with the company's Orlando-based station, Cox also agreed to switch the affiliations of three other stations (CBS affiliate KIRO-TV [channel 7] in Seattle, and two TDN affiliates that were set to be displaced by the Disney-Hearst deal) to the network.

Fisher Communications, feared over its top-rated KOMO-TV (channel 4) in Seattle losing its ABC affiliation to KIRO, reached a deal with NBC to affiliate KOMO and its fellow ABC affiliate, KATU (channel 2) in Portland, Oregon, with the network, as Fisher did not have any NBC affiliates of its own.

As a result of losing the National Basketball Association rights to TDN, NBC suffered a lot in the ratings as it failed to compete in the ratings (lagging behind ABC and CBS, but placing ahead of TDN, Fox, and UPN) with a slate of programming that attracted an older audience.

Post-switchover changesEdit

TDN continued to upgrade its stations in the following unrelated deals struck later:

  • In late 2000, Walt Disney Television Stations purchased ABC affiliates WSYX in Columbus (a station that was once part of the Taft Broadcasting alliance which was renamed Great American Communications in 1987) from the Sinclair Broadcast Group, WKRN-TV in Nashville (which was once part of General Electric's portfolio of stations, and was sold off in 1983 to Knight Ridder, along with WRGB, which was sold off to Universal Communications Corporation) from Young Broadcasting, and WVEC in Hampton, Virginia (which was co-owned with WFAA in Dallas) from the Belo Corporation. The deal cost Disney a lot of money to make, and Disney had to run each of those stations as ABC affiliates in order to honor their existing contracts with the network.
  • On September 4, 2001, Walt Disney Television Stations also purchased CBS affiliate KENS (channel 5) in San Antonio — which was once co-owned with the city's newspaper, San Antonio Express-News — from the Belo Corporation. Former TDN affiliate KRRT (channel 35) assumed the CBS affiliation on April 3, 2002.
  • On August 1, 2008, Fox affiliate XETV (channel 6) in San Diego — the home market of the San Diego Toreros of the NBA — became a TDN affiliate, trading affiliations with KTTY (channel 69).

From 2003 to 2005, TDN gained affiliates in smaller markets.

On June 29, 2006, CBS signed a long-term affiliation agreement with St. Paul-based Hubbard Broadcasting to switch its ABC affiliate KSTP-TV (channel 5) and its other television properties to the network. Since CBS had already owned WCCO-TV (channel 4), one of its strongest affiliates at the time, it sold WCCO to ABC Television Stations (making it an ABC O&O). When CBS acquired the Hubbard television and radio stations outright, KSTP and its other sister stations all became owned-and-operated stations of the network.

Playhouse Disney repercussionsEdit

In Oklahoma City, PBS member station KETA-TV (part of the OETA state network), owned by the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, began airing Playhouse Disney in lieu of KOCO; however, the authority's advisor refused to show commercials during the block's program breaks, filling in the gaps with pledge drive announcements. Disney willingly moved the block back to KOCO, making it the only former Hearst-owned station that switched to TDN to air Playhouse Disney.

Zoog Disney repercussionsEdit

Vault Disney repercussionsEdit

Playhouse Disney/Zoog Disney repercussionsEdit

Zoog Disney/Vault Disney repercussionsEdit

Playhouse Disney/Vault Disney repercussionsEdit

Playhouse Disney/Zoog Disney/Vault Disney repercussionsEdit

The resilience of NBCEdit

Impact on CBSEdit

As NBC suffered a lot in the ratings due in part to the Hearst affiliation switches, CBS became the most-watched network in the United States, as it benefited from a stronger slate of programming at the time.

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