AT&T putting kibosh on BayTV


San Francisco regional news network BayTV is going dark, with partner AT&T Broadband planning to take it off its systems July 31.

BayTV is operated by majority owner KRON-TV, which repurposes much of its news programming from its broadcast station onto the regional news channel. But AT&T, which holds a 49% stake in the news operation, says that it doesn't want to fund continuing losses and that after seven years BayTV's thin ratings don't justify carrying it.

Jim Morgan, CFO of KRON owner Young Broadcasting admitted that the venture had been a money loser in prior years but insisted it "was starting to make money" this year. Further, he said, AT&T's out of pocket costs weren't that great: under the terms of the BayTV deal, the cable system does not bear any of the annual operating costs at the present time. But since AT&T controls systems serving about 90% of cable subscribers in the San Francisco DMA, KRON couldn't keep BayTV going even if it were willing to go it alone.

AT&T plans to substitute Food TV, which an AT&T executive said, "is the single most requested channel by our subscribers." About 45 BayTV employees will lose their jobs with the shut down. The channel was born from a 1993 retransmission agreement between former KRON owner Chronicle Publishing and fomer system owner Tele-Communications Inc. - John Higgins