The FOX Broadcasting Company has sent a letter of termination to the Tribune Company over the status of its affiliation with Seattle television station KCPQ-TV (Channel 13).
According to a press release distributed by Tribune on Tuesday, FOX says it intends to end its affiliate agreement with KCPQ in January 2015.
“Since 2013, (Tribune) and (FOX) have been conducting ongoing discussions regarding Tribune’s Fox affiliation in Seattle,” the press release said. “Throughout the course of this dialogue, which is ongoing, a variety of alternatives have been discussed and there is no resolution at this time.”
The move appears to coincide with FOX’s recent power-grab of affiliates on the west coast fueled by broadcast rights over National Football Conference (NFC) football games.
Earlier this year, FOX entered into an agreement to acquire San Francisco Bay Area affiliate KTVU (Channel 2) and independent station KICU (Channel 36) from Cox Broadcasting in exchange for FOX-owned stations in Boston and Memphis. The move was prompted by KTVU’s right to air San Francisco 49ers games as a FOX affiliate. The deal is still subject to regulatory approval, though it’s expected to go through.
After the Cox deal, some speculated that FOX would make similar deals with other stations that air NFC games. In Seattle, KCPQ enjoys telecast privileges for Seattle Seahawks games. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl last year.
On Tuesday, the New York Post reported that Tribune would lose KCPQ to the network in exchange for Chicago MyNetwork station WPWR (Channel 50). If that transaction goes through, Tribune would own two stations in Chicago; currently, Tribune’s owns WGN-TV (Channel 9), a CW affiliate and the company’s flagship station.
If a deal can’t be reached with Tribune, FOX has other options in Seattle. With the exception of CW station KSTW (Channel 11), none of the major Seattle affiliates are owned by a network, making any of them ripe for a possible purchase and affiliate-swap with KCPQ.
A more-likely scenario would see FOX acquiring independent station KONG-TV (Channel 16) from the Gannett Company, either in an all-cash deal or in exchange for a station in a major market where Gannett currently has no presence (like Chicago).
If FOX secures a deal with KCPQ or moves its affiliation to another Seattle station as part of an acquisition, it would own the FOX affiliates in every NFC-served market except one: Raycom-operated WVUE (Channel 8), which broadcasts in New Orleans and is owned by the Louisiana Media Group. Tom Benson, the owner of the Louisiana Media Group, also owns the New Orleans Saints football team.
As for Tribune, the company said on Tuesday it does not expect its discussions with FOX to affect the other 13 stations it owns with FOX network agreements. Along with KCPQ, Tribune currently owns three other FOX affiliates in the west — Denver station KDVR (Channel 31), San Diego station KSWB (Channel 69) and Sacramento station KTXL (Channel 40). None of the three stations serve a market with a NFC football team, and only one station — KTXL — broadcasts to a local market where there is significant interest in a distant NFC team (San Francisco).
Shares of Tribune ($TRBAA) dropped more than six percent by the close of market on Tuesday.