Regulatory filings made public Tuesday show that Fox Television Networks will pay $18 million for two Charlotte TV stations, a very good deal by contemporary media standards.
Everything Fox does is highly strategic, said Bishop Sheen, a media consultant and former analyst with Wells Fargo Securities.
On Monday, Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting announced it was selling its two Charlotte stations WJZY (Channel 46), which carries the CW network, and WMYT (Channel 55), which carries the MyTV program service to the Fox network.
That means the Fox network programs now carried by WCCB (Fox Charlotte, Channel 18) will shift to one of the newly acquired stations.
Ratings and resulting ad sales are likely to follow the Fox programs, ranging from American Idol to NFL football to The Simpsons.
Both WJZY and WMYT are among the lowest-rated stations in Charlotte because of the largely noncompetitive programs they carry in prime time versus stronger network affiliates here. On the CW network, carried by WJZY, the best-known shows include Americas Next Top Model and Arrow. MyTV, carried on WMYT, is largely reruns of popular series such as Law & Order and Monk.
But ratings should surge and ad sales with them when one of the stations adds Foxs schedule. For Fox, that means buying a station cheap and instantly turning it into a top performer.
Its going to create a lot of extra value in a short amount of time, Sheen, the media consultant, said Tuesday. Its the kind of thing that sends a signal to investors that says, Boy, do we have the right company.
Affiliation is big money
Sheen said network affiliation, and the viewers it brings to a station, is a valuable commodity. Bringing the Fox affiliation to a station that carried the CW or MyTV networks could increase the value of that station by 50 percent overnight, he said.
Theres plenty of markets where this has happened, Sheen said. Its like musical chairs. A station that has an affiliation with a Big 4 network doesnt want to lose the affiliation because of the drop-off.
Fox is likely to move its network programming to WJZY and retain the MyTV rerun service which it owns on WMYT. WJZY notified its advertisers Tuesday that it expects to begin picking up Fox on one of the two stations in July.
Fox owns 27 stations in the United States outright and provides programming to about 175 stations owned by others nationwide. In nine cities, Fox owns two TV stations and in every one of those, it carries its MyTV service on the second station.
In the deal between Fox and Capitol Broadcasting, which was signed Jan. 14 but not made public until Monday, a closing date of June 1 is targeted. It is contingent upon approval by the FCC, which routinely accepts such changes in ownership without objection.
Options for WCCB
For WCCB, owned by Charlotte-based Bahakel Communications, the loss of Fox programming may be crippling, even if it opts to pick up the CW network as a replacement.
In January, for example, the highest-rated show in Charlotte aside from sports is Foxs American Idol, pulling about 260,000 total viewers. By comparison, the highest-rated show on the CW network in Charlotte is the superhero drama Arrow, which draws about 29,000 total viewers.
It might take Fox viewers a little while to figure out whats going on, but they will follow their network to its new home, said Robert Wendt, research director at WSOC (Channel 9), the citys top-rated station. Id be pretty excited if I were WJZY.
Fox formally notified WCCB of the change, effective July 1, in a phone call Monday morning, said Jim White, WCCBs general manager.
WCCB executives have said they are exploring options after losing the Fox affiliation that the station has had since the network was formed 27 years ago.
Among the likely options open to the station are:
• Picking up the CW affiliation if dropped by Fox.
• Becoming an independent station with syndicated programming, like WAXN (Channel 64).
• Affiliating with a Hispanic network such as Univision and targeting the Spanish audience.
• Acquiring network affiliation with ABC, CBS or NBC from another Charlotte station.