(Editor’s Note: It is rare these days for yours truly to write about musings from another TV/radio market since this blog is basically about Chicago radio and TV, and the national TV scene. But this is an unusual story worth mentioning.)
After 64 years, it is lights out for Bay City Television.
On Thursday, management of XETV, the Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico-based station who transmits their signal into the United states announced it was suspending operations. Beginning May 31, XETV becomes an affiliate of Gala TV (formerly Galavision), transmitting its signal from Mexico City.
Gala TV is owned by Mexican communications giant Groupo Televisa, which supplies programming to Univision. Groupo Televisa also owns XETV through its Bay City Television subsidiary, located in San Diego. Gala TV is not related to the Univision-owned Galavision cable network seen here in the United states, though both share programming from Televisa.
Groupo Televisa already has a sister station broadcasting in Spanish, the Tijuana-based XEWT (Channel 12), which is available over-the-air and cable in San Diego.
There is no word if XETV would remain on cable or satellite systems in San Diego once the conversion to Spanish-language programming is complete. The station remains available as an over-the-air outlet.
As reported here recently, the decision comes as XETV – branded locally as “CW6 San Diego”, lost the CW affiliation to a subchannel of CBS affiliate KFMB, which is launching on over-the-air channel 8.3 on May 31. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the station plans to launch several newscasts to compliment the new programming.
As for XETV, the move means an end of locally-produced newscasts and English-language syndicated programming, with news operations ceasing on March 31. There is no word on if KFMB would pick up XETV’s syndicated lineup. Current programming includes The Doctors, Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, Maury, Mike & Molly, Seinfeld, The Insider, Rules Of Engagement, and The 700 Club.
San Diego (DMA 26) was already crowded with six local news operations – even more than Chicago, and certainly a lot for its market size. The market’s CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox affiliates and independent KUSI were already producing news.
The decision to flip XETV came because of an inability to renew a contract with The CW, who had been affiliated with the station since 2008 when Tribune’s KSWB-TV switched to Fox, XETV’s former network partner since the network’s inception in 1986.
The switch has nothing to do with the U.S. spectrum auction (XETV is a Mexican station, after all), and nothing to do with President Trump’s push to build a border wall between U.S. and Mexico, where XETV is based. When the station was a Fox – and beforehand, an ABC affiliate, most network programming had to be taped at a facility in San Diego and driven over the border to Tijuana because the FCC does not allow foreign stations to transmit U.S. signals. During its ABC days, XETV was unable to carry network breaking news coverage and live sports programming, such as Monday Night Football.
Like former CW affiliate WGN-TV did here in Chicago, XETV could have returned to independent status – it became one in 1973 when ABC was forced to move to Storer’s KCST-TV (now NBC-owned KNSD; ABC relocated to KGTV in 1977.) But given how poor the market is for first-run and off-network syndicated programming these days – and the lack of major sports teams in the area (the Chargers announced they were leaving San Diego earlier this month for Los Angeles), Groupo Televisa officials decided it was not worth the effort and threw in the towel.
The last time an English-language station became all-Spanish (to yours truly’s knowledge) was in 1994 when Univision bought low-rated independent WGBO-TV. Some of WGBO’s former programming wound up on Weigel’s WCIU, Univision’s previous affiliate as the station became a full-time English language independent. Today, WGBO is one of Univision’s strongest performers, and previously returned to English-language programming via two digital subchannels (GetTV and Grit.)
This is not the first instance on a foreign station transmitting American programming to the U.S: Windsor, Ont.-based CKLW-TV (now CBET) did so from the 1950s through the 1980s, transmitting programming across the border into Detroit with Detroit market rights, run like a traditional independent station. After the Canadian government ruled American companies could not own media properties in Canada, RKO Broadcasting sold the station. Since 1975, CBET has been owned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Even though CBET aired American off-network shows and movies it had rights to, it was barred from airing any American programming the CBC had due to rights issues with other Detroit stations.
(Editor’s Note: Made correction on how programs were transmitted from XETV during Fox era.)