by Cynthia Littleton, Managing Editor: Television, Variety.com
After months of hardball negotiations, Tribune Media has reached a deal with Fox to extend the affiliation of its Seattle station KCPQ-TV, which Fox had been eyeing as part of its campaign to secure O&Os in key NFL markets.
Tribune said Friday that it has extended the affiliation deal through July 2018, (after Tribune agreed to pay more for Fox programs and sports). Last month, Fox formally notified Tribune that it intended to end the affiliation deal in January as it pressured Tribune to agree to a station swap deal that would have allowed Fox to claim KCPQ as its own.
Fox even went so far as to start the process of acquiring another station on the edges of the Seattle market to ramp up the pressure on Tribune to hand over KCPQ. The Fox O&O group orchestrated a similar station swap with Cox Media in the San Francisco market earlier this year.
Tribune also had some clout to bring to the table with its sizable 42-station group and heft as a major owner of Fox affils. Broadcast industry observers have kept a close eye on the Seattle situation at a time of rising tensions between networks and affils over reverse compensation fees.
Last year, Fox bought a station in Charlotte, N.C. and switched the network affiliation from its longtime home on WCCB-TV. The transition to the smaller outlet in Charlotte has not been particularly smooth for Fox, which may have influenced the decision to stay the course with Tribune in Seattle rather than go through the disruption of switching stations.
In announcing the deal, Tribune said it had agreed to pay “additional programming fees to Fox for the prime time and sports content provided by the network.” That is in keeping with the steeper reverse compensation terms that each of the Big Four networks are seeking from affiliate stations. It’s unclear if Tribune will pay considerably more in the Seattle market that it does in reverse comp for its seven other Fox affiliate stations.
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