CW Stations Suddenly In Demand

I have a story out Oct. 27 on the various CW stations that are freestanding, as in, don’t have a duopoly partner in the market. There are not many of them, and the number is shrinking in this era of consolidation and all-important duopolies. Gray Television picked up WQCW earlier this year, for instance, and paired it up with WSAZ.

Wouldn’t you know it, just as I was finishing up my story, Nexstar went and acquired KASW Phoenix for $68 million; the station had been acquired, along with KTVK, by Meredith from Gannett in June, which then lined up Sagamore Hill to hold the license. Meredith’s initial deal was for $230 million.

Nexstar is not done yet. Sources tell me KCWI in Des Moines, another CW, is going to Nexstar as well. Perry Sook, Nexstar president and CEO, would not confirm, but said he hoped to do so “very soon.” That would mean another standalone CW station. Titan Broadcast, which operates some Pappas stations, would not confirm either.

I asked Ted Stephens, general manager of KCWI, how the Pappas-owned station has been able to hold on as a standalone in the market. Stephens mentioned a 6-10 a.m. variety program called Great Day that’s been on KCWI for a few years; he calls it “our salvation.” The show hosts local performers, authors and personalities, and features local headlines, weather and traffic.

“That’s the key,” says Stephens. “Local, local, local.”

The biggest holders of non-duopoly CWs are Tribune, of course, as well as Lockwood Broadcasting, with CW stations in Knoxville, Huntsville and Greensboro. Also key to surviving as standalones: a big, savvy operator behind you, and a batch of digi-nets to expand your offerings beyond CW and your own local stuff.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone is content director at B+C and Multichannel News. He joined B+C in 2005 and has covered network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television, including writing the "Local News Close-Up" market profiles. He also hosted the podcasts "Busted Pilot" and "Series Business." His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The L.A. Times, The Boston Globe and New York magazine.