CBS to pull CW affiliations in eight markets

Largest network defection since 1994 when it happened to…CBS

With Nexstar acquiring three-fourths of The CW, the network who was once partner in the venture is now dropping the low-rated network from its eight big-market stations by September 1 and is being re-christened as independents. The eight are located in Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, Detroit, Sacramento, and Pittsburgh.

Of these, five are in duopolies with the primary CBS owned-and-operated station. The other three (Atlanta, Seattle, Tampa) are standalones, with the CBS station being owned by someone else. CBS will now have thirteen independent stations in its roster, including WLNY New York City and KCAL Los Angeles. Last year, CBS dropped the My Network TV affiliations at WSBK Boston and WBFS Miami. Two stations – WPCW Pittsburgh and KBCW in San Francisco – will likely change their call letters, as each station was WNPA and KBHK, respectively before their affiliations with The CW. 

The move is surprising, but it was the plan all along after CBS parent Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery sold their controlling stakes to Nexstar, giving them 75 percent and reducing theirs to 12.5 percent each as the transaction obviously gave CBS the right to pull their affiliations. One possible reason was to save money – instead of being “owned-and-operated stations” of the network, they would be required to pay “reverse compensation” to Nexstar like every other affiliate. For decades, networks paid compensation to affiliates to carry their programming until twenty years ago, a few years after The WB pioneered the reverse comp concept.

“We look forward to reimagining these stations as independents while leveraging the considerable value of their prime-time real estate in each of the markets,” said Wendy McMahon, who is President and Co-Head of CBS News and Stations. “It’s an exciting time to look at new opportunities to add local programming, including live sports, and shows from across the Paramount Global brands. We are also grateful to have been part of The CW for 17 memorable years and wish our partners at Nexstar continued success.”

“Since our acquisition of The CW Network last October, we have known that Paramount Global might transition the network affiliations of eight of its company-owned stations later this year,” according to a statement from Nexstar Media Group.We are prepared for this possibility and confident that The CW Network will continue reaching 100% of U.S. television households without interruption.” The move obviously opens up the likelihood Nexstar would convert its Philadelphia, Tampa, and San Francisco My Network TV stations into CW affiliates, who already carry the LIV Golf tournaments, whose rights were acquired by The CW earlier this year. In other markets, The CW could land on a digital subchannel of a primary affiliate or another station.

In Chicago, Nexstar’s WGN already carries LIV Golf as it was turned down by its CW affiliate, WCIU. There’s been speculation The CW could shift back to WGN once its affiliation contract with WCIU ends. Under Tribune ownership, WGN dropped The CW in 2016 but both are now under the same Nexstar corporate umbrella. 

The CW was a result of a merger between the old WB and UPN networks in 2006, with each launching within days of one another in January 1995. 

Ironically, the last network defection of this size came in May 1994, when New World Communications signed a twelve-station affiliation deal with Fox, costing CBS eight of its stations. In 2006, the closure of UPN left Fox’s ten duopoly stations – including WPWR-Ch. 50 here, without a network and formed My Network TV as a replacement, which is now a programming service relying solely on off-network reruns of Law & Order and Dateline


3 thoughts on “CBS to pull CW affiliations in eight markets

    • Is it known when WCIU-TV’s affiliation contract with The CW ends? I think WPWR had The CW for three years before the network moved to WCIU. It’s been just over three years now with WCIU.

    • Indirectly related…Nexstar yesterday (5/8/23) just announced that they’re purchasing San Diego independent station KUSI, from McKinnon Broadcasting, which I believe is their last broadcast property. I know they sold their Texas TV stations to what’s now Tegna several years ago. KUSI would become the duopoly partner to Fox affiliate (and previous CW and WB station) KSWB, despite San Diego itself having six full-powered stations on the English side of the region–the two aforementioned, plus KFMB (CBS), KGTV (ABC), KPBS, and KNSD (NBC); the area’s Univision, Unimas, and Telemundo stations on are low-power, although KUAN (Telemundo) is broadcasting from KNSD’s spectrum.

      It’s expected that once the deal closes on KUSI, the CW affiliation will move there once the network’s contract with KFMB-D2 is done (it’s set to expire in 2026).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *