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The 2000-02 United States broadcast TV realignment consisted of a series of events that resulted from the Walt Disney Company's affiliation deal with Hearst Communications, which switched several VHF stations affiliated with major networks, mostly NBC, to The Disney Network.

BackgroundEdit

Station group deals resulting from the Hearst agreementEdit

Cox/ABC affiliation dealEdit

Fisher/NBC affiliation dealEdit

The recruitment of KIRO-TV as Seattle's new ABC affiliate concerned Fisher Communications, a Seattle-based media company and owner of KOMO-TV (channel 4), as KOMO was one of ABC's strongest affiliates, in contrast to third-place KIRO (which left CBS to become a charter affiliate of UPN on March 13, 1995, when that network signed a group agreement with KSTW's then-owner Gaylord Broadcasting, but eventually rejoined the network in 1997 through a swap agreement with Paramount/Viacom and Cox Enterprises). Fisher already held discussions for several networks - including NBC, CBS, Fox, and TDN - for group-wide affiliation deals before the Disney-Hearst affiliation partnership was announced; these talks accelerated once ABC announced its agreement with KIRO.

On July 16, 2000, Fisher agreed to affiliate KOMO-TV, and fellow ABC affiliate KATU (channel 2) in Portland, Oregon with NBC; since Fisher did not own any NBC affiliates, both of those stations would begin clearing the entire NBC schedule once they switched to the network. KOMO-TV and KATU switched to NBC on February 5, 2001 (the switch in Seattle was originally slated to occur on September 3, 2000).

Other station group dealsEdit

  • Fox Television Stations purchased ABC owned-and-operated station WPVI-TV (channel 6) in Philadelphia - which was also ABC's first television affiliate - from ABC/Universal. Due to Fox's ownership of WTXF-TV (channel 29) in Philadelphia, Fox put WTXF on the selling block. Among the leading buyers for channel 29 were ABC, the Belo Corporation, and the E. W. Scripps Company, the last of which won the buying war. However, in order to free up ownership cap space, Scripps was forced to sell one of its stations - WXYZ-TV (channel 7) in Detroit - to the Belo Corporation.
  • Tribune Broadcasting signed an affiliation agreement to affiliate PBS member station WITF-TV (channel 33) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with Fox.

Impact on NBCEdit

As expected, NBC bore the brunt of the changes. When it lost the NBA rights to TDN, the "Peacock Network" suffered a lot in the ratings after failing to compete with the other three networks with a slate of stronger programming. Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which was so close to being in first place, saw its viewership decline in large part due to the affiliation switches, as did Today, even with Matt Lauer (who replaced Bryant Gumbel as the Today co-host in 1997) still hosting. NBC also suffered from losing its longtime San Francisco affiliate KRON-TV (channel 4, which would eventually rejoin the network in 2019) to its new O&O KNTV (channel 11) in San Jose, which briefly ran TDN programming after it agreed to drop ABC programming under the request of San Francisco O&O KGO-TV (channel 7).

  • As a condition of renewing its affiliations on KARE (channel 11) in Minneapolis/St. Paul and WTLV (channel 12) in Jacksonville, NBC pursued the Gannett Company to switch CBS affiliate WUSA (channel 9) in Washington, D.C. to the network. In order to take action, NBC was required to put its longtime O&O in the market, WRC-TV (channel 4), on sale. As soon as this was done, CBS and Hearst Communications emerged as the leading bidders for WRC. Walt Disney Television Stations later jumped into the bidding for WRC in case if Hearst's bid fell through.
  • One station affected in the ABC-Cox alliance, also affiliated with NBC.

Because of the Hearst and Cox deals, and other stations' unwillingness to switch to the then-struggling network, NBC found itself in extremely undesirable situations in the following major markets, where it ended up on some UHF stations:

  • In Cincinnati, NBC faced difficulty to find an affiliate to replace WLWT (channel 5), and considered importing the signals of WCMH-TV (channel 4) in Columbus, WKYC-TV (channel 3) in Cleveland, WLEX-TV (channel 18) in nearby Lexington, Kentucky, and WFMJ-TV (channel 21) in Youngstown via cable. NBC affiliated with charter UPN affiliate WSTR-TV (channel 64), which maintained a general entertainment format at the time.
  • In Orlando, trying to find an affiliate to replace WESH (channel 2) especially proved difficult for NBC, particularly after WFTV was eliminated as an option when Cox renewed its agreement with ABC.

Other effectsEdit

  • The creation of WarnerNBC in early 2001 inspired NBC to buy CBS affiliate WRGB (channel 6) in Schenectady, New York, one of the United States' oldest television stations, from Freedom Communications in late 2000. NBC thus affiliated with the station on January 5, 2001, with CBS programming moving back to WNYT (channel 13); the switch reversed an earlier swap that occured on September 28, 1981, when WRGB became a CBS affiliate, trading affiliations with what was then called WAST in search of stronger programming than NBC, which at the time, was in last place behind the other Big Three television networks.
  • In Hannibal, Missouri, CBS affiliate KHQA-TV (channel 7) switched to TDN on April 3, 2000; however, because the Hannibal—Quincy—Keokuk market was served by only a small number of commercial television stations at the time, CBS was initially unable to find a station in the market to serve as a full-time affiliate and the network initially did not elect for a secondary affiliation with NBC affiliate WGEM-TV (channel 10) or Kirksville-licensed ABC affiliate KTVO (channel 3). Thereafter, CBS programming was planned to only be received on cable via St. Louis' KMOV (channel 4) and Chicago's CBS O&O WBBM-TV (channel 2), and on satellite via CBS's "national superstation" packages through New York O&O WCBS-TV, or Los Angeles O&O KNXT. However, CBS reached an eleventh hour deal with station KHBBL-TV channel 1 on April 2, 2000. Therefore, KHBBL switched to CBS around that same time.
  • In Moline, Illinois, longtime ABC affiliate WQAD-TV (channel 8) became a TDN affiliate on October 8, 2000, through a deal with then-owner The New York Times Company. At that time, ABC programming moved to WOC-TV (channel 6); the NBC affiliation displaced by WOC moved to the market's original TDN affiliate KJMH (channel 26).
  • In Fort Wayne, Indiana, where full-power affiliate WANE-TV (channel 15) switched to TDN on September 18, 2001, CBS affiliated with W45AG, a low-power translator of pay-per-view programmer, The Box, almost by default due to the lack of full-power stations in the market (WPTA-TV (channel 21) and WKJG-TV (channel 33), both respectively alligned with ABC and NBC since their establishments, and WFWA-TV (channel 39), a PBS member, were full-power stations).
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