Denver, St. Louis stations combine operations

Local TV and Tribune Broadcasting have agreed to combine operations and certain programming under a plan to reduce overhead expenses with their respective TV stations in St. Louis and Denver, in which is being called a “virtual duopoly”.

St. Louis’ KPLR (CW) and KTVI (Fox) are combining operations in their market, as is Denver’s KDVR (Fox) and KWGN (CW.) KPLR and KWGN are both owned by Tribune; KDVR and KTVI are owned by Local TV – both are former Fox O&O’s.

Unlike regular duopolies, where one company owns two stations in the same market, this unique arrangement features two companies running their stations in a “co-op” fashion.

The agreement means in St. Louis, KTVI will be moving into KPLR’s headquarters, while in Denver, KWGN moves into KDVR’s pad.

The moves also means shared news resources for all stations involved, including Denver stations competing with each other in several time periods. However, management and other staff are being paired down: KDVR’s Dennis Leonard will oversee both stations in Denver (KWGN’s GM Jim Zerwekh is leaving the station). No word yet on any management changes in St. Louis.

This comes as no surprise: already, Local TV and Tribune are sharing back-end corporate, administrative, and engineering functions in a deal announced last year by current Tribune Chief Operating Officer Randy Michaels – who used to be the Chief Executive Officer at Local TV. There was some talk about the stations in Denver and St. Louis combining forces.

There are no affiliate swaps being planned at this time. In the 1990’s, Fox tried to affiliate with KWGN twice, but to no avail. In 1995, KTVI – then owned by New World Television – dropped its ABC affiliation to join Fox along with eleven other New World stations. Fox bought KTVI in 1997, but sold it and seven other stations to Local TV.

Overheard: From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch comment board on this story:

“Have you ever seen a WGN news cast? St. Louis doesn’t have the resources to be that bad.”

Then this guy hasn’t seen WBBM-TV’s or WFLD-TV’s newscasts…

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