Twin Cities exchange

Fox is swapping the affiliations of its Minneapolis duopoly. WFTC(TV), now on a UHF channel (29), will become the UPN outlet, while UPN affiliate KMSP(TV), on a VHF channel (9), will become the Fox outlet.

The affiliation change has been expected since Fox established its duopoly last year. Fox took over WFTC in a swap with Clear Channel, KMSP when it acquired the Chris-Craft group. KMSP has had the stronger local news, morning and sports presence in addition to the stronger dial spot.

The two stations will no longer compete in late news. WFTC will now carry a half-hour newscast at 10 p.m., and Fox's network programming will now lead into the market's leading 9 p.m. newscast on KMSP.

The two stations' operations will be combined at KMSP's new Eden Prairie, Minn., facilities to facilitate the merger of the stations' news departments, Fox said, under Vice President and News Director Dana Benson. Each news department will have separate talent but will share management, assignment desks and equipment.

KMSP and WFTC Vice President and General Manager Carol Rueppel said the deal "aligns the best of both Fox and UPN. We're not stripping one station for the benefit of the other. Our intention is to make both stations destinations for slightly different audiences."

WFTC will now carry UPN's prime time programming behind its current 5-7 p.m. comedy block, strengthening its appeal to young adults, Rueppel said.

The Sept. 8 switch date coincides with the beginning of network and syndication fall launches and the NFL season. A six-figure promotion campaign is expected over the summer.