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Monday, March 24, 2008

Tribune Station Switches to Fox Tribe


KSWB in San Diego to Depart CW Clan

By Michele Greppi


Tribune Co.’s KSWB-TV in San Diego will shift its network affiliation to Fox at the end of August, dramatizing the willingness of new Tribune owner Sam Zell to depart from the approach of the company’s former management.

KSWB is affiliated with The CW and was a founding affiliate of its now-defunct predecessor, The WB.

The station will start the 2008-09 season carrying Fox’s popular NFL coverage (San Diego is the home of the Chargers), as well as a prime-time lineup fueled by such hits as “House,” “24” and “American Idol.”

The talks were spearheaded by Randy Michaels, who has headed Tribune Co.’s Internet and broadcast operations since December, according to Tribune Broadcasting President Ed Wilson, who was president of the Fox Television Network before joining Tribune in February.
Mr. Wilson said Tribune will add three to four hours of news per day to the lineup of KSWB, which currently simulcasts the local morning program produced by Tribune’s KTLA-TV in Los Angeles and broadcasts a late local newscast produced by NBC-owned KNSD-TV in San Diego.

“This is a very good move for us,” Mr. Wilson told TelevisionWeek.

As for what will happen to The CW affiliation in the market, John Maatta, chief operating officer of The CW issued a statement saying: “Tribune is a valued partner of The CW’s and we’re confident that our interests in San Diego will be fully protected.”

Mr. Wilson noted that Tribune still will have 12 CW affiliates, whose general managers recently were briefed on prime-time plans by The CW President Dawn Ostroff.

“We continue to be very loyal. We’re going to do what’s best for The CW,” Mr. Wilson said. “We are talking on a daily basis.”

Changes
Tribune stations already represented the second-largest group of Fox affiliates. The addition of San Diego will mean seven Tribune-owned stations within the Fox fold.

The station losing Fox affiliation is XETV-TV, which is based just across the Mexican border in Tijuana and was purchased by Grupo Televisa in 1996.

Jon Hookstratten, Fox network distribution exec VP, said the network’s gains in this affiliation switch start with the fact that instead of working with a station situated in another country, the network will be collaborating with a station whose transmitter is located in the middle of the San Diego market, the 27th largest TV market in the country.

“It’s more of a stable situation,” Mr. Hookstratten said. “We are looking forward to it as a great opportunity.”

McKinnon Broadcasting had been in talks with Fox Broadcasting about affiliation when Tribune reached out to Fox about making the switch.

According to sources familiar with the history of the negotiations, the subject first came up when the previous Tribune regime was grappling with a great deal of challenge and change. Last week brought the news that Tribune Co. had lost $79 million for the fourth quarter of 2007, its last as a publicly traded company, and ended the calendar year barely profitable.

There also was the announcement that Mr. Zell’s new management team was going to combine operations of its Miami TV station, CW affiliated WSFL-TV, and the Tribune-owned South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

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