The change that will affect every television viewer in Western Washington was finally confirmed today as CBS and Gaylord Entertainment Co. announced that KSTW-TV (Channel 11) will become a network affiliate.
The date of the change has not been determined, but it can be no sooner than March 15, 1995. Termination of an agreement between CBS and its present affiliate, KIRO-TV (Channel 7), requires six months' notice.
The change means all CBS programs, including "The CBS Evening News," "Northern Exposure" and "The Late Show with David Letterman," eventually will move from Channel 7 to Channel 11.
The affiliation switch here coincides with one in Dallas involving another of Gaylord's independent stations, KTVT-TV. The present CBS affiliate in Dallas, KDFW-TV, is moving from CBS to Fox.
CBS had been in talks with Gaylord for several months to sign up KTVT and was desperate to make a deal. Presumably, Gaylord held out for affiliation in Seattle-Tacoma, too.
KIRO has been a CBS station for 36 years, since it first signed on. Station executives expected the announcement but said they have been in the dark until today about the station's future with CBS, despite repeated inquiries to the network. Neither CBS nor Gaylord would comment before today.
Tuesday, Bonneville International Corp. of Salt Lake City, a holding company of the Mormon Church, said it is selling KIRO-TV to A.H. Belo Corp. of Dallas for $160 million. Belo said it expected to run KIRO as an independent station with a strong news component, and that expectation was fulfilled today.
"Obviously, it's a bad situation to have our affiliation canceled due to a situation out of our control in Dallas," said KIRO-TV general manager Glenn Wright. "But we feel we can be a very powerful independent station. We've certainly got the tools and ownership to do it."
KSTW general manager Gary Schneider said his station will expand its local news operation, which now produces an hourlong newscast at 10 p.m., to match that of the other Big Three affiliates in Seattle.
Channel 11 also will expand its presence in Seattle but has no immediate plans to move its main studios from Tacoma, Schneider said.
Network affiliation increases a station's visibility, makes marketing easier, and is prestigious. But losing CBS doesn't mean financial disaster for KIRO.
The network now pays KIRO to air its programming, in addition to making time available for local advertising during network programs. But an independent station has control of all its commercial time and can make more money per hour with lower ratings, said Wright.
"We're doing very well as a CBS affiliate, obviously," Wright said, but being an unaffiliated station running syndicated and local programming "can be a real opportunity."
KIRO-TV also could decide to affiliate with one of two upstart networks planned for January - Paramount and WB, although the launch of WB could be in doubt because its parent company, Time Warner Inc., is seeking to link up with NBC.
Nashville-based Gaylord owns four TV stations and other entertainment companies, including the Grand Ole Opry and The Nashville Network.
"We have worked with CBS on many projects over the years, including the CMA (Country Music Association) awards show and the Grand Ole Opry's 60th and 65th anniversary shows," said Tom Griscom, President of Gaylord Communications Group, in a joint CBS-Gaylord news release. "We look forward to the expansion of our relationship with CBS through the affiliation of our Dallas and Seattle stations."
Channel 11 was a CBS affiliate previously, from its sign-on in 1953 until 1958 and from 1960 to 1962.