FOX, KCPQ in a Fight for Prize of NFL Telecasts


by Art Thiel, Columnist, 10/10/2014

FOX so wants to own a station in Seattle market that they bought one in Bellingham as leverage against KCPQ’s owners. Losers could be some South Sound Seahawks fans.

The approximate broadcast-signal reach of KBCB in Bellingham, which has been purchased by Fox and could become home to Seahawks over-the-air telecasts.


The popularity of the Seahawks in the Seattle-Tacoma market and of the NFL in general has prompted a long, fruitless negotiation between FOX TV Stations Group to buy Seattle-based KCPQ Channel 13, which this season carries nine Seahawks games, including Sunday’s game at the Clink against the Dallas Cowboys.

Unsuccessful in its bid to own and operate a station in the Seattle market, FOX ratcheted up pressure this week by buying, according to Federal Communication Commission documents, a small station in Bellingham, KBCB-TV. It also gave Tribune Media Co. of Chicago, owners of KCPQ, 120 days notice, per contract, that FOX will end its affiliation in Seattle. If FOX makes good its threat, Channel 13 after Jan. 17 will no longer carry NFL games and other prime-time FOX programming.

The $10 million purchase of KBCB and subsequent notice to Tribune raised the stakes for FOX, which is amid an aggressive campaign to own and operate stations that carry the NFL, to get into even the fringe of the Seattle-Tacoma market.

If FOX, which has 12 stations in the 16 markets of the National Football Conference — for which FOX owns the broadcast rights — leaves KCPQ, that won’t mean much to the typical Puget Sound-area NFL fan who gets FOX programming via cable or satellite TV.

But if your household is among the small but growing number that get football free on an old-fashioned, over-the-air broadcast signal, you will be out of luck if you live south of central Seattle.

That’s currently the geographic limit of KBCB’s southerly signal reach for a channel that  carries only a 24-hour syndicated shopping channel and has no staff or news operation. It was owned by Venture Technologies Group LLC.

Nielsen Research data says that as of early 2014, 6.3 percent of households in the Seattle-Tacoma market consume TV via free broadcast signal, compared to 66.9 percent by cable and 27 percent by satellite.

Six point three may not sound like much, but in this market, the number outside of KBCB’s reach is about 70,000 households, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

That would represent a lot of irked 12s.



Fox, Ch. 13 in a fight for prize of NFL telecasts


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