Deal May Let Fox Go to Channel 2

Article excerpt

The Fox TV network could hop to Channel 2 from Channel 30 next year, sending the ABC network scrambling for a new outlet in St. Louis.

The moves are part of a major alliance announced Monday, designed to let upstart Fox snatch coveted stations from major network rivals across the nation.

If the deal holds up, industry observers say it could set off a game of musical channels in St. Louis as networks scramble to grab each other's dial positions.

"This could mean much more than one station change," said Michael Kupinski, broadcast analyst for A.G. Edwards & Sons.

The potential switch stems from a deal billed as the largest realignment of network stations in TV history.

Fox Broadcasting Co. said Monday that it will form a $500 million joint venture with New World Communications. The deal will give Fox 12 stations now affiliated with its big three network rivals and boost its share in major broadcast markets.

New World also said it has an option to take control of Argyle Television Holdings Inc. Argyle, based in San Antonio, owns Channel 2 in St. Louis and three stations in Texas and Alabama.

If it takes control, New World said it would switch Channel 2 from ABC to the Fox network, along with Argyle stations in Dallas and Austin, Texas. The Federal Communications Commission would have to approve the ownership switch.

If ABC were booted from KTVI (Channel 2), the network probably would try to stay on the VHF dial, with its low channel positions and strong signals, said analyst Kupinski.

ABC could try to lure Channel 4 from CBS or attract Channel 5 from NBC, says Kupinski. ABC could also land on independent Channel 11 or take Fox's place on Channel 30.

KMOV (Channel 4) and KSDK (Channel 5) are both owned by out-of-town companies that carry network programming.

KDNL (Channel 30) has carried Fox since the network began in 1986, and the locally owned station isn't ready to concede its loss.

"By March of '95, who knows what can happen in our business," said Gregg Filandrinos, general manager at Channel 30. "There are too many ifs."

Channel 30 has four years to run on its current contract with Fox. But the deal contains an escape clause that allows Fox to move if it takes an ownership stake in a St. Louis station.

Filandrinos thinks his station will land ABC if it loses Fox, despite its position on the high-number UHF dial. …

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