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CBS won’t renew with WJXT

Apr 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

CBS is not renewing its affiliation agreement with one of its strongest outlets, WJXT-TV, the dominant Jacksonville, Fla., station owned by Post-Newsweek.
The rupture comes after two years of negotiation about compensation, which CBS intended to end, and other issues. The agreement was to have ended last summer but was extended when both sides agreed to disagree for another year.
Now CBS is in talks about its options in the market, the 53rd largest in the country. The network was described as being confident it would have a quality outlet to announce soon.
The Jacksonville market is home to Gannett-owned ABC affiliate WJXX-TV and NBC affiliate WLTV-TV; Media General-owned WB affiliate WJWB-TV; Clear Channel-owned Fox affiliate WAWS-TV; and MGA Broadcasting-owned UPN affiliate WTEV-TV.
Meanwhile, Post-Newsweek is planning to double WJXT’s news programming-which earns ratings in the low teens and is the most-watched in the market-to more than 50 hours a week.
“We think we can serve the Jacksonville community better in a new way,” said Post-Newsweek Stations President Alan Frank, who said plans for prime time will be announced later.
“We haven’t locked that down yet,” said Mr. Frank, who was one of the major players in the decision by the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance last year to petition the Federal Communications Commission to investigate network practices.
Multiple sources said the no-compensation edict was delivered to Post-Newsweek by Mel Karmazin himself, the president and chief operating officer of CBS owner Viacom.
CBS, ABC and NBC have been weaning local stations off compensation for carrying network programming. Fox most dramatically changed the traditional model by going to “reverse compensation,” whereby affiliates pay the network.
“I don’t work for Mel Karmazin,” said Mr. Frank, who noted that WJXT is not like other CBS affiliates.
Because of the station’s historic strength, CBS programming performs from 140 percent (prime time) to 400 percent better (“Saturday Early Show”) in Jacksonville than it does nationally.
Mr. Frank said he’d recently signed long-term affiliation renewals with NBC for Post-Newsweek’s KPRC-TV in Houston and WDIV-TV in Detroit. “We worked together to achieve mutual goals,” he said. “We found a way to do it.”
While Mr. Frank believes the network wasn’t willing to “value” WJXT’s power locally, CBS felt Mr. Frank refused to see compensation as only one part of the total asset-value mix and to concede the broader value his station got from being affiliated with CBS.
CBS has renewed 39 affiliates in the past 19 months.
“We were very interested in renewing our affiliation with a great television station, but we weren’t able to come to terms,” said Peter Schruth, CBS’s senior VP for affiliate relations.