It's still a couple of years away, but a big shift is coming in the afternoon landscape on local television. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will move from Ch. 5 to Ch. 4 in the fall of 1993.
The switch is going to mean major changes in both stations' lineups. Nationally, "Oprah" is the No. 4 show in syndication (behind "Wheel of Fortune," "Jeopardy" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation") and is by far the most popular show KSL has in the afternoon.Grabbing the talk show away represents a coup of sorts for KTVX - albeit a very expensive coup.
Groundwork for the switch began when King World, which syndicates "Oprah," came calling at KSL to negotiate a new contract with the station. Immediately, the syndicators announced their intentions to jack up the price considerably.
While not wanting to reveal specific money figures, David Manookin, KSL's vice president of programming, said the asking price "would not make it profitable for us to carry" the show.
In addition to a hefty increase in the fee, "They wanted us to guarantee them we'd run it at 4 p.m.," Manookin said.
That's something Ch. 5 was unwilling to do - run it when kids are home from school because of some of the rather adult subject matter on "Oprah."
King World, on the other hand, wants the show to run in the late-afternoon slot because audiences are larger and it can charge more for its national advertising spots.
So the syndicator opened "Oprah" to bids, meaning any station in the market could go after the show. Ch. 2 (perhaps half-heartedly), Ch. 4 and Ch. 5 all submitted bids, with KTVX willing to pay the most.
"It wasn't an easy negotiation," admitted KTVX programmer Gordon Acker. "The price, of course, was the big thing. And the time slot and pre-emption policies."
And plans call for "Oprah" to move to 4 p.m. when it moves to Ch. 4.
"We're committed to a good time slot," Acker said. "We will be giving it a better time slot than it has had. We think that the audience for it will be quite large."
That audience already is quite large. The most recent A.C. Nielsen ratings book showed "Oprah" with a 32 share of the audience on Ch. 5, while the competition on Ch. 2 and Ch. 4 combined totaled a 30 share.
Again, Acker didn't want to get specific when it came to talking about how much Ch. 4 will be paying for "Oprah." But, reportedly, it's about a third more than KSL was shelling out - meaning it will be difficult if not impossible to turn a profit on the show.
But there's method to this madness. KTVX is obviously hoping to build a big audience at 4 p.m. that will stick around and watch network and local news at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., respectively.
It's sort of like supermarkets selling some items at a loss in order to attract shoppers, who then spend big bucks on the rest of their groceries.
It's a gamble, but one that's worked for other stations around the country.GOODBYE, BILL: At the same time KSL loses "Oprah" to KTVX, it will be losing another expensive syndicated show to another of its competitors.
Also in the fall of '93, "The Cosby Show" will be headed for Ch. 14.
But while there are some mixed emotions about losing "Oprah," there are no regrets about the loss of "Cosby." Its performance in the ratings has never justified the high price tag.
"If someone wanted to buy out the last two years of our contract (with `Cosby') we'd be glad to talk to them," Manookin said.
Which is not to say that the show won't be more successful for KXIV than it has been for KSL. As a network affiliate, Ch. 5 is prohibited by FCC regulation from running the show in "prime time access" - 6:30 to 7 p.m. - a time slot that might be considerably more appropriate for the Huxtables.
KXIV hasn't made up its mind where "Cosby" will run yet, however.
But Ch. 14 is definitely taking a risk. In order to get "Cosby," it had to agree to buy "A Different World" as well.
And the potential for that mediocre-at-best show in this market is highly questionable.