'SNL' on The CW? It's 'Normal' in Salt LakeKUCW is the happy beneficiary of a peculiar network-affiliate relationship 9/17/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
The New Normal got a blast
of publicity when KSL Salt Lake
City said it would not air the
show due to its “rude and crude” dialogue.
Residents of DMA No. 33 had to
wait a few more days to see NBC’s rookie
sitcom, but they got two runs of it Sept.
15 on CW affiliate KUCW—sandwiched
around the season premiere of Saturday
Night Live, which KSL does not show either,
airing a local sports block instead.
It’s a quirky arrangement in Salt Lake,
with KUCW periodically picking up
NBC shows when KSL’s conservative
interests take precedence. Matt Jaquint,
vice president and general manager at
KTVX and KUCW, is all too happy to
get blue-chip programs such as SNL on
his junior station. “It’s definitely a win
for the CW,” Jaquint says. “I assume it’s
a win for [KSL] too—their own sports
shows, with a lot of avails. They may be
able to make more money.”
Jaquint says it’s an informal relationship
with NBC, with no contract, occasional
phone calls from the network when an
NBC show needs a home, and a typical
network-affiliate inventory arrangement.
It can be difficult to determine which
programs KSL—owned by Bonneville
International, a unit of the Church of
Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon church)—pre-empts for moral reasons and which it
drops for revenue reasons. To wit: While it does not air Saturday Night Live, KSL does
air some SNL primetime specials. “I’m guessing it’s probably some of both,” says Scott
D. Pierce, TV critic at The Salt Lake Tribune. “They’ve got to be making more money
on a locally produced sports show than a network late-night show.”
KSL did not respond to several requests for comment. NBC would not comment
on its relationship with its Salt Lake affiliate.
The pre-empting pre-dates KSL’s switch from a CBS affiliation to NBC in 1995.
Pierce notes the station never bumped Will & Grace, which featured two gay lead
characters, or the often graphic Law & Order programs. “They’re wildly inconsistent,”
says Pierce. “There are times I wonder if they watch their own shows.” (Note: Pierce
was laid off at the Deseret News, which is also owned by the Church of LDS, before
joining the rival Tribune.)
KSL’s pre-emptions go beyond edgy comedies. Written into its affiliate contract, says
Pierce, is an arrangement for KSL to air, twice a year, four weekend daytime hours of
the LDS’ General Conference, which one local TV veteran says does “Super Bowl numbers”
on the station. When that occurs the first
weekend of October, KUCW will pick up NBC’s
college football game telecast.
Nexstar recently agreed to acquire KUCW
and KTVX, Salt Lake’s ABC affiliate, from Newport
Television (see Market Eye).
KSL isn’t the only Salt Lake station breaking
from network patterns. KUTV, a former
CBS O&O, splits the two hours of CBS This
Morning between KUTV and sister MyNetworkTV
affiliate KMYU, a holdover from its
old O&O contract.
KMYU was the grateful recipient of NBC’s The
Playboy Club last season, though the show was
the first one killed in the fall. KUCW passed on
The Playboy Club because it could not run it in
pattern due to CW primetime commitments.
In Playboy Club’s place on KSL was a homegrown
comedy/variety show called We Are
Utah. Pierce gives it a resounding thumbsdown.
“When stations attempt comedy,” he
says, “the results are not usually pretty.”
SNL rates relatively well in Salt Lake, with
a 4 household rating/10 share on KUCW in
last May’s sweeps, and a healthy 4 rating in
adults 25-54. KSL’s sports shows in the same
slot averaged a 3 household rating/6 share.
By comparison, SNL posted a 7.3 household
rating/16.4 share last May for WCMH
Columbus (Ohio), DMA No. 32.
Moreover, the ratings are about double
what syndicated programming, such as Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory,
would do in the same slot, Jaquint adds.
For its part, The New Normal premiered Sept. 10 to a promising 2.5 rating among
adults 18-49 and 6.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen preliminary nationals.
Around half of the Salt Lake City market’s population is associated with the Mormon
church. Yet Pierce says TV tastes aren’t much different than in other markets,
though younger-skewing shows do well, thanks to a market that overindexes in
young viewers. (Mormons’ larger families are a factor in the youthful population.)
KSL is not the power it was in recent years, due to cost-cutting and NBC’s ailing
primetime. KSL and NBC may not be an ideal marriage, but it appears both parties
will continue to rely on each other. NBC’s affiliate alternatives in Salt Lake are
weak, says Pierce, while KSL “clearly needs the network to survive. The affiliation
is important to them.”