Young makes lemonade

Now that KRON-TV San Francisco has dropped to the No. 5 station in the market, owner Young Broadcasting is touting it as a candidate for duopoly. Station groups are prohibited from owning two of a market's top four, which KRON-TV was before it lost its NBC affiliation Dec. 31.

With one analyst suggesting that it was a case of "bad news being good news," Young Chairman Vincent Young said in a conference call on earnings that, "as smart as we are, we never thought we would be out of the top four stations." He maintains, though, that its news and syndicated shows give it strength in key dayparts.

Young predicted that KRON-TV would still be valued at more than the $700 million-plus it paid in '99, which would be an unusually high price for a group's second station in a market. Young said its debt makes it unable to purchase much but it is in a position to trade or sell assets.

In taking over the NBC affiliation, KNTV(TV) San Jose, Calif., boasts a 10-fold growth in ratings and says it has maintained 80% of former affiliate KRON-TV's ratings of the year before, despite the expanded number of players in the market, to become the DMA's second-most-watched station. KPIX-TV San Francisco has risen to No. 1.

But viewers who want to watch NBC and can't—including the Olympics—may be left to fiddle with their antennas, or pay for cable. The network is no longer considering portable low-power transmitters to boost its signal for greater coverage.

NBC Vice President Steve Doerr said the signal boosts were of limited effectiveness and caused interference. NBC, which is consulting with KNTV while its acquisition of the station is pending, says it may look for a UHF station to simulcast its signal for homes that lost their ability to receive NBC programming over KNTV.

In the affiliation switch, NBC estimated that about 200,000 homes would not be able to receive KNTV's over-the-air signal due to its tower location. Doerr said NBC now believes the number of homes to be less than half that, although competitors insist it is far higher.

KNTV became the NBC affiliate when Young and the network could not reach a deal on reverse compensation.