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49ers cause Fox to swap stations for KTVU

Fox is taking over ownership of KTVU as the primary station airing 49ers games, and here's what its new logo might look like.
Fox is taking over ownership of KTVU as the primary station airing 49ers games, and here's what its new logo might look like.
Courtesy Cox Media Group and 21st Century Fox

Fox is swapping stations in Boston and Memphis for KTVU and KICU here in order to own the primary station airing 49ers contests. As part of the Bay Area duopoly, channel 2 has been owned by Atlanta-based Cox Media Group for 50 years, but that’s about to change.

This is part of Fox’s plan to own as many stations airing NFC team games as it can. As part of its contract with the NFL, Fox has the rights to air contests involving NFC teams on Sunday mornings and afternoons. It currently owns stations that cover 11 out of the 16 teams in the NFC. This includes the entire NFC East, and three out of four squads in both the NFC North and South.

In fact, last year, it purchased a duopoly in Charlotte, displacing its longtime charter affiliate there, so it could own the Panthers station.

Apparently Fox has had its eye on the Bay Area and the 49ers for a while, even contemplating buying KRON and making it over into a Fox-owned outlet, similar to what NBC did twelve years ago when it purchased KNTV and moved NBC programming over from KRON.

Instead Fox decided to wait patiently until it saw an opening at KTVU, which finally happened last year. Remember the Asiana Airlines crash name gaffe on KTVU? Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, etc.? The word is that soured Cox owners on KTVU, and when Fox presented them with this opportunity to swap it and KICU for the Boston and Memphis stations, Cox took it, a move they might have turned down prior to the fake name incident.

Since Fox produces all regular-season NFL contests and playoffs that air on KTVU, including 49ers games, you may ask why it matters whether KTVU is an affiliate or an owned station, since Fox reaps the profits from advertising during the games. It does for national ads, but there are also local ads for which revenues from 49ers contests have gone into the pockets of Cox. Now they’ll head to Fox.

Why did Fox give up stations in Boston and Memphis? Aside from them being individual stations and not duopolies like KTVU/KICU which are more valuable, the Patriots are an AFC team so the Boston outlet rarely gets to air them. Memphis has no NFL team; the closest team is the Tennessee Titans which play in Nashville and is also an AFC squad.

Once this swap goes through, the only NFC teams playing on non-Fox-owned outlets will be the Seahawks, Rams, Saints, and Packers. And now that the deal for the 49ers station is done, the word on the street is that Fox has its eye on Seattle. If it grabs a station there, it means no matter who wins between the 49ers and Seahawks, it’ll be a touchdown for Fox.

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