Nobody knows exactly how all this affiliate swapping and stealing will affect the Salt Lake stations, but KSL-Ch. 5 is preparing itself for whatever the outcome might be.
The folks at KSL want nothing more than to remain a CBS affiliate. They've got not only their longtime relationship with that network, but the national broadcasts of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on CBS to think about.If it were up to KSL and its owners, Bonneville International, nothing would sever that affiliation. Unfortunately for them, it isn't up to them.
As discussed here last week, NBC's recently announced purchase of KUTV-Ch. 2 may not be particularly permanent. Unconfirmed reports have NBC swapping its stations in Miami, Denver and Salt Lake City for CBS-owned WCAU in Philadelphia.
To make a long, complicated story short, in the wake of Fox pirating away eight CBS affiliates, the Big Eye made a deal to convert Group W's stations to CBS affiliates. Because Group W owns the current NBC station in Philadelphia, CBS needs to sell or trade WCAU, its station in that city. Both Fox and NBC want WCAU badly, because it's a strong VHF station (channels 2-13) and the loser will end up with a weaker UHF station (channels 14 and above).
Again, it's also possible that should CBS end up owning KUTV after a trade, the network could turn around and sell the station again - meaning that KUTV might have three sets of owners in less than a year.
Anyway, KSL is sort of helpless in all of this. If CBS decides to trade WCAU for some group of stations that includes KUTV-Ch. 2, KSL could be out in the cold.
Which is why they're doing the smart thing at Broadcast House - planning ahead, looking at the various options they'd have in such a circumstance, which include:
- Going after the NBC affiliation.
If KUTV were to go to CBS, NBC would definitely be looking for a new outlet in Utah. KSL would be the most obvious and certainly the strongest.
After all, were NBC to have KSL-Ch. 5, KJZZ-Ch. 14 and KOOG-Ch. 30 to choose among, which do you think they'd prefer?
By going from CBS to NBC, KSL would be making a lateral move. As always, Ch. 5 would have trouble with some network programming - maybe pre-empting some episodes of "Seinfeld" and almost certainly delaying "Saturday Night Live" - but nothing they don't experience with CBS.
- Trying to wrest the ABC affiliation away from KTVX-Ch. 4.
This seems less likely, but don't count the possibility out. There are some rumors that involve ABC and both KSL and its Seattle sister station, KIRO, which is in great danger of losing its CBS affiliation because of another domino effect of changes that is also the result of Fox stealing away those eight CBS affiliates.
However, trying to woo ABC wouldn't be easy for KSL. ABC's two major affiliate concerns these days are gaining post-late news time slots for "Nightline" - something KSL is unlikely to do - and making sure its affiliates carry "NYPD Blue" - something KSL is extremely unlikely to do.
And then there's the fact that KTVX-Ch. 4 doesn't want to give up its ABC ties.
- Becoming an independent.
Not an easy path, but a possibility. KSL, with its strong news product, might just succeed as an indy. They could program more news, and get out from under networks that program shows they object to.
They'd probably want to add the Jazz to their BYU sports lineup and possibly some other sports.
But a major problem would be KSL's relatively weak slate of syndicated programming, which wouldn't come close to filling out their schedule.
Should KSL decide to go independent, that might mean a financial bonanza to KTVX-Ch. 4. Both ABC and NBC would try to woo what would be the only strong VHF station left in town.
And KJZZ-Ch. 14 would probably end up as the affiliate of whichever network didn't win over Ch. 4. Larry Miller could sell the station for a huge profit, move his Jazz to KSL, and Ch. 14 could swap its Paramount Network ties - which include "Star Trek: Voyager" - to Ch. 5.
- Sell the station. This is highly unlikely but not completely out of the realm of possibility.
When questioned about any rumored deal, management at all the stations involved have a variant of the same answer: "The way things are going, anything could happen."
Keep in mind that all of this is conjecture at this point. The fact is that all these deals are taking place at levels that don't include local station management, so KSL staffers are simply trying to be prepared for a situation that could get dumped on them.
They just hope it never happens.