The CW Extends Affiliate Agreement With Tribune in 12 Markets Ahead of Upfront Negotiations

But Chicago's WGN-TV is going independent

The CW has completed an essential piece of business prior to beginning upfront negotiations, and we're not talking about last week's presentation to buyers.

This morning, The CW and Tribune Media Company announced they have reached new long-term affiliation agreements for 12 of the Tribune's CW affiliate stations, which reach a fourth of the U.S. and represent 28 million households.

Stations covered in the Tribune/CW deal include affiliates in New York (WPIX-TV), Los Angeles (KTLA), Dallas (KDAG), Miami (WSFL-TV), Washington, DC (WDCW), Houston (KIAH), Denver (KWGN-TV), St. Louis (KPLR-TV), Portland, Ore. (KRCW-TV), Hartford (WCCT-TV), Norfolk (WGNT) and New Orleans (WNOL-TV).

In the nation's No. 3 market, Chicago, however, the local CW affiliate is moving from Tribune Broadcasting to Fox Television Stations' WPWR-TV on Sept. 1, as WGN-TV will become an independent station, airing a mix of local news, live sports and syndicated programming in prime time.

While The CW would have liked to get the deal—which has been in the works for more than a year—finished in time to announce at last Thursday's upfront, it was essential to get it wrapped now, before The CW's ad sales team entered upfronts. The network has a hot hand, especially after snagging Supergirl from CBS (The CW president Mark Pedowitz told reporters last week that he expects it to become one of the network's top 3 shows), and was the first broadcast network last summer to wrap its upfront talks. Those negotiations would have been much more difficult with the network's affiliation deal with its largest station group in major markets in doubt.

"As The CW continues to build on its current ratings momentum and full schedule of high-quality programming, we are thrilled to continue our successful partnership with Tribune and their affiliated stations for many years to come," said Pedowitz in a statement.

"We are extremely pleased to continue our strong relationship with The CW Network," said Peter Liguori, Tribune Media's president and CEO, in a statement. "The prime-time entertainment programming offered by The CW drives a passionate and loyal audience to our stations and we are looking forward to a lot of success."

WGN-TV, meanwhile, will transition to an independent station on Sept. 1. The station, which broadcasts more than 150 Chicago Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks games, had previously moved as many as 30 games each year to other stations because they interfered with network programming.

"As an independent television station, we'll have the opportunity to bring more prime-time baseball, basketball and hockey games to Chicago sports fans on weeknights, add some popular syndicated programming, expand our weekend morning news and take control of all of WGN-TV's prime-time advertising inventory," said Larry Wert, president of broadcast media, Tribune Broadcasting, in a statement. "Importantly, we'll also avoid having to move any games off of WGN-TV to accommodate network programming."

And Fox-owned WPWR is happy to step in as The CW's new Chicago affiliate. "We love high quality, big budget first-run prime and we love having more original programming," said Frank Cicha, svp, programming, Fox Television Stations, in a statement. "But most of all, we love moving to The CW the same time as Supergirl."