Tri-Cities Station to Lose its ABC Affiliation, Drops News

Come February 1st, a Tennessee station is going to lose it's ABC affiliation and the news department is going bye bye. 

The ABC affiliation for the Tri-Cities market is being moved from WKPT in Kingsport to WJHL in Johnson City.

WKPT claims that ABC pulled a fast one on the station, after agreeing and then backing out of a deal.

“ABC presented to us a proposal that would have had us paying the network at least 15 million dollars over the next 5 years. Although we ultimately agreed to meet the network’s terms, ABC told us a few days ago that it had decided to explore other options in the market. WKPT had been negotiating in good faith with ABC since October of last year,” President of Holston Valley Broadcasting (WKPT owner) George DeVault said.

“A large source of revenue for network-affiliated TV stations has become fees paid by cable and satellite carriers in return for consent for them to carry the local affiliate’s signal,” DeVault explained. “A large portion of those fees ultimately goes to the network, however. If the cable or satellite carrier refuses to meet the affiliate’s fees demand, the affiliate can pull its signal from the system.”

“The big systems operate in all or a great many TV markets. We operate in one,” DeVault said.

“Media General, which owns WJHL, operates in almost 50 markets and owns or effectively controls more than 70 stations. If it threatens to pull its network affiliate signals in every market where both it and the cable or satellite carrier operate, it has immensely more bargaining power than one independently-owned, family-owned station like WKPT-TV operating only in market number 97. That is why small operators like us are disappearing or being bought up by big group owners, and that is why networks like ABC prefer to be affiliated with the powerful group owners,” DeVault said.

WKPT-TV will become an independent TV station, not affiliated with a major network, effective February 1. “To stay in the TV business will be a “tough financial challenge,” DeVault said. “ Many among our present staff will lose their jobs. Most notably we will be going out of the local TV News business.”