Fox’s Touchdown Play By The Bay; Are St. Louis and Seattle Next?

ktvu

Fox has called an audible at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. It looks like they caught the defense napping and are about to convert on an 80 yard touchdown bomb.

In a power-play type move from Fox, they have announced a deal to purchase television stations KTVU-TV Channel 2 and KICU-TV Channel 36 from Cox Media Group in exchange for WFXT-TV Channel 25 in Boston and WHBQ-TV Channel 13 in Memphis.

KTVU is already a Fox affiliate, and is well-known by sports fans in the Bay Area as once being the longtime local home (in addition to the old SportsChannel Bay Area) of San Francisco Giants baseball.

Brass at KTVU are already saying that the acquisition by Fox will have no impact on its delivery of news—ignoring, of course, a redesigning of the logo to match the other Fox O&Os, a redesigning of the KTVU studios, and the changing of the graphics to, once again, match those of the other Fox O&Os.

In addition to being a Fox station, KTVU blows the other local television stations in the San Francisco Bay Area away in terms of ratings. KGO-TV (an ABC O&O), KNTV-TV (an NBC O&O) and KPIX-TV (a CBS O&O) play second fiddle to the KTVU calls by the Bay.

That’s one big reason why this is such a big deal. It definitely opens up Cox to new markets in Boston and Memphis—two markets where they have never been before and now may have the opportunity to expand in terms of both TV and radio.

The big deal, of course, is on the Fox side with KTVU. This deal will mean that five of the six English-network affiliated stations in the Bay Area will be owned & operateds. The outlier will be KRON-TV Channel 4, a MyNetwork TV affiliate and one whom according to Rich Lieberman’s 415 Media Blog, Fox initially had its eye on before pursuing KTVU.

It’s also huge news for a television network that recently went through an embarrassing journalistic escapade with its coverage of the Asiana Airlines story and the fake names associated with it. Instead, it’s deals like this that make media observers like yours truly say, “Ho Lee Fuk”.

That’s said to be one reason for why Cox wanted to offload KTVU in addition to some moving and shuffling amongst many of the news staff. But, when it comes down to it, this deal can be summed in with three things.

N.

F.

L.

The power that the NFL has in local television arrangements cannot be ignored. In the mid-1990s when television stations across the country were changing affiliations to Fox (primarily because of its wresting of NFC football from CBS), it caused the other “Big Three” networks scrambling for new stations to carry its programs. Fox was doomed to be a failure as a broadcast network without the NFL.

Oh, and that yellow family from Springfield better known as The Simpsons.

CBS had to air AFC football in response. Fox’s strategy has been to establish owned & operated stations in every single market with an NFC team so they could rake in both the local and national dough that those NFL deals offer. And as we know, there’s no money like football money.

Here’s the list of O&Os Fox currently has in NFC cities:

WNYW-TV Fox 5 New York (Giants)

WTXF-TV Fox 29 Philadelphia (Eagles)

WTTG-TV Fox 5 Washington, D.C. (Redskins)

KDFW-TV Fox 4 Dallas (Cowboys)

WFLD-TV Fox 32 Chicago (Bears)

KMSP-TV Fox 9 Twin Cities (Vikings)

WJBK-TV Fox 2 Detroit (Lions)

WAGA-TV Fox 5 Atlanta (Falcons)

WJZY-TV Fox 46 Charlotte (Panthers) (Deal done last year)

WTVT-TV Fox 13 Tampa/St. Petersburg (Buccaneers)

KSAZ-TV Fox 10 Phoenix (Cardinals)

Stations jumped to Fox after the NFC rights buy. Fox moved in and assumed not only their affiliation, but also locking them up as owned & operateds later on.

Fox is doing this deal because it allows them to have an O&O in another NFC market: the Bay Area with—the San Francisco 49ers who right now are probably the best team in the NFC not named the Seattle Seahawks. Also, having an O&O in market #4 is not something you want to pass up if you are a smart girl or guy in charge of a network.

Fox may not be done either. Variety reported last year that Fox was planning on making buys in Seattle and St. Louis in addition to the San Francisco purchase. The St. Louis Fox affiliate is KTVI-TV, a Tribune station. Tribune, based in Chicago, primarily runs CW affiliates, including the three flagship CW stations in New York City (WPIX-TV 11), Los Angeles (KTLA-TV 5), and Chicago (WGN-TV 9).

The Seattle situation is actually rather intriguing. The station that Fox is said to have its collective eyes on is not KCPQ-TV Q13 Fox, another Fox Tribune station. It’s KIRO-TV Channel 7, another Cox station, but is affiliated with CBS.

I’ve had numerous conversations with SeaTac Media’s Jason Remington about this issue and we both have thrown around ideas. I suggested that if Fox buys KIRO and changes it into a Fox O&O, then it turns the entire Seattle market upside down.

Seattle has already seen a change in its media landscape with Sinclair acquiring locally-based Fisher Communications, owners of stations such as KOMO-TV 4 (ABC), KUNS-TV 51 (Univision), and KATU-TV 2 (ABC) in Portland, Oregon. In addition, the purchase of Belo Broadcasting by Gannett has put the market’s NBC affiliate, KING-TV (and independent station KONG-TV) (get the King Kong reference?) under new management as well.

The idea I suggested to Remington was that Fox will make the buys in St. Louis and Seattle because those are two cities with NFC teams. Fox wants O&Os in both. If KIRO changes, then it raises the possibility that KCPQ and KSTW-TV CW 11 also change network affiliation. KCPQ, being a Tribune station could jump to the CW, and KSTW could become CBS considering that it’s already a CBS-owned station.

That market could see a “Big Switch” similar to what Denver, Phoenix, and Philadelphia all notably experienced in the mid-1990s during the days of the mass realignment of the local affiliations with the networks.

One cannot ignore said ramifications of a deal if it goes through in all three cities. Assuming Fox gets its coveted O&Os in San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis, Fox will have O&Os in every NFC market outside of New Orleans (Saints) and Green Bay/Milwaukee (Packers).

New Orleans’ Fox affiliate, WVUE-TV Channel 8 is owned by Tom Benson’s (Saints owner) Louisiana Media Company in conjunction with Raycom. Green Bay’s Fox station, WLUK-TV Channel 11, is owned by LIN Media while Milwaukee’s at WITI-TV Channel 6 is a Tribune station.

It’s even possible that Cox may have considered exchanging either their San Francisco station or their Seattle station in exchange for the Boston and Memphis stations. But Fox wasn’t getting both on one shot. So, if that’s what Cox was offering, then it was a slam dunk for Fox. A heritage station plus an indie in the largest NFC (and NFL, for that matter) market west of the Mississippi.

And, this could only be the beginning. If the trajectory as to where Fox is going with these deals is any indication, it may not be long before Fox says hello on an O&O basis to the Space Needle & the Gateway Arch as they have just done so to the Golden Gate Bridge on the city by the Bay.

Boston’s Evolution Ends at a High Point for EDM

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My ears began noticing something circa 2010 that was happening to Top 40/CHR radio.

I began noticing that the BPM of the songs that are played on Top 40 CHR radio began to increase…and increase…and increase.
And increase.

I have always been an advocate of Dance music on American radio. This is partly because I am such a huge fan of the dance music that came out of the 90’s before it Finding such Dance stations on the radio in other countries is not hard—especially European countries. In Europe, Dance is one of the most popular musical genres there is on the radio.

Usually, because of the corporate structure of many radio stations, dance has made inroads into radio only to see those inroads reach dead ends. Whether it’s the “Energy 92.7 and 101.1” in Phoenix, “Energy 92.7 & 5” in Chicago, “Energy 92.7” in San Francisco, “Groove 103.1” in Los Angeles, “Party 93.1” in Miami, “Hot 107.1” in Denver, or “Pulse 87” in New York City, Dance has tried mightily to find permanent places on the radio only to see them either sold or flip to other formats.

The same fate that has befallen other Dance/EDM outlets recently happened to another. Add WEDX-FM “Evolution 101.7” in Boston to that long list. Clear Channel Communications flipped the EDM’er to Country “101.7 the Bull” with the moving of Pete Tong’s Evolution format (which already is available with a national feed on iHeartRadio) to the 107.9 HD-2 of WXKS-FM CHR “Kiss 108”.

There is one motivation behind the move and one motivation only—Clear Channel wants to prop up Kiss. They want to slice numbers off Greater Media’s market-leading Country 102.5 WKLB in order to move Kiss to the top place on the Boston PPM’s.

Except one can make the argument that Kiss’s sister in crime at WJMN “Jam’n 94.5” is already doing a very good job of that on its own—along with two CBS Radio stations in Hot AC WBMX “Mix 104.1” and WODS “103.3 Amp Radio”.

Evolution may have done it as well.

Typical Clear Channel move if you ask me where the PPM charts are the sole motivation for a move. In a city where there has been no Oldies/Classic Hits station since 2012 when WODS flipped from its longtime heritage Classic Hits format to Top 40. This in a city where there has been no (legitimate) Urban AC (sorry, you don’t count, Touch 106.1!) station since Radio One sold off their cluster in the City of Beans to Entercom. And in a city where, despite its huge Country audience, probably doesn’t need a second Country outlet.

But that’s beside the point…at least for now.

Just a few short years ago, most mainstream radio listeners probably wouldn’t be able to name one EDM artist.

Now, North American radio listeners know who Avicii, Armin Van Buuren, Deadmau5, Skrillex, Diplo, David Guetta, Zedd, Benny Benassi, Fedde Le Grand, Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix, DJ Tiesto, Afrojack, and countless other EDM DJ’s are. Dance music hasn’t been this popular and received this much radio airplay since the mid-1990s.

The difference between the mid-1990s and today is that radio was not as concentrated in the hands of a few owners as it is today. The difference between the mid 90’s and today is that the business climate for dance stations was much rosier than it is today, unfortunately.

These artists are getting a mountain of airtime on CHR radio stations, but why hasn’t it translated into EDM formats springing up all over the country like leaves in the springtime?

Alternative music is also experiencing a renaissance with musicians such as Lorde, Lana del Rey, and Imagine Dragons lighting up the Billboard charts. The difference is that there are already plenty of Alternative and Indie formats on the radio, even those that happen to be to the left of 92.1.

Wherefore, art thou, EDM?

I can’t quite put my finger on this one except for the obvious answer that something about full time EDM formats just doesn’t seem to fit a model for mainstream corporate radio. After all, it took Pete Tong just to twist arms enough in San Antonio for them to even do a 24-hour channel on iHeartRadio.

Also, the 93.5 in Miami doesn’t count just because of the fact that it’s near the former home of Party 93.1. 93.5 is a translator.
Other than Sirius XM Satellite Radio and a bevy of internet radio stations (like what Pulse 87 is now), there are not that many places where EDM fans can get their consistent fix of music with abnormally high BPMs. This is other than weekend “Party” mixshows at “Club CoCo” which already are basically all EDM, all the time. Now, any random daypart on your local Top 40 station sounds like a weekend mixer.

Just imagine if your favorite musical genre started to become very popular and began to receive a lot of radio airplay. Wouldn’t you want that genre to not have to rely on Top 40 stations to get airplay and would rather see it stand on its own with its own radio stations?

Because, sometimes, radio stations aren’t simply media outlets. They can (when done right) also be outlets that can exude musical culture. That’s the marketing strategy behind the Nash FM stations.

For radio conglomerates to say that EDM mixers and artists are good enough to have their music played on CHR outlets (which have gone heavily Rhythmic thanks to EDM’s rise to mainstream prominence lately) but not on their own radio stations like Evolution in Boston sounds like a subtle slap in the face. It’s like saying to a sports reporter at a radio station that she’s good enough to cover major events like basketball games, but they’ll wait to promote her to being in charge of the department simply because she’s a woman.

Look, one should not complain if you’re an EDM fan. When you’re in the position that dance has been over the past couple of decades, you have to take what you can get. And, perhaps, this could be part of the thinking of radio conglomerates that if they were to give EDM their on stations that it would take away from CHRs. After all, EDM and Alternative’s stock are both up while that of Hip-Hop is down.

But it wasn’t part of the thinking by these same radio bigwigs when people had forgot what dance was and Hip-Hop was going through a radio renaissance like it was for a good portion of the 2000’s.

Every time this back-and-forth on EDM is referenced, we cannot forget about one artist in particular—Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga.

How did Lady Gaga get her big break into the superstar she is today? This little thingy in New York called…Pulse 87.

Exactly. Z-100 wasn’t the radio station that discovered Gaga. Pulse 87 did. In fact, prior to Joel Salkowitz going bankrupt on Pulse, he had a master plan to beam in multiple “Pulse 87”’s into Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Chicago.

Again, I would not complain one bit if I am one of the millions of EDM fans in the USA. Those who probably never even knew what BPM stood for are embracing the genre. Pop culture is embracing the genre. Rappers, as evidenced by Snoop Dogg, are embracing the genre. Alternative artists like Coldplay are embracing the genre as evidenced by their work with Avicii. There’s even a such thing as EDM artists producing COUNTRY songs!

What’s next, a genre that fuses together EDM with Smooth Jazz? Oh wait—there already is a genre for that—it’s called Chill. WQCD CD 101.9 in New York once tried the Chill experiment for a while before eventually reverting to Smooth Jazz.

If everyone else is on board EDM’s bandwagon which seems to get bigger and bigger by the day, why can’t radio in the form of full time formats? After all, Zedd recently signed an endorsement deal with Bud Light.

There’s one advertiser. And we know how much you lurrrrve those, radio.