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Scott D. Pierce: KSL, NBC headed for a divorce? Doubtful

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Bebe Wood as Shania; Andrew Rannells as Bryan; Justin Bartha as David; Georgia King as Goldie. Courtesy Trae Patton | NBC

By Scott D. Pierce

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published May 01 2013 04:29PM
Updated Dec 7, 2013 11:31PM

In the wake of KSL’s decision to pull yet another NBC series — "Hannibal" — let’s do a bit of Q&A.

Why doesn’t NBC dump KSL? • Well, there are contracts to consider. And KUCW-Channel 30, where NBC shows often end up, is not an option. The FCC prohibits a company (in this case, Nexstar) from owning ABC (KTVX-Channel 4) and NBC affiliates in the same market.

Even in its weakened state — even with the pre-emptions — KSL is clearly NBC’s strongest option in Utah.

(NBC execs don’t want to talk much about this and did so only off the record. KSL execs don’t want to talk about it at all.)

Why doesn’t KSL go independent? • Sounds logical, given the heartburn KSL gets from NBC programming. But operating as an independent isn’t easy. KSL’s parent company, Bonneville International, faced that situation when its Seattle station lost its CBS affiliation in the mid-’90s. It sold the station.

Would the LDS Church sell KSL? • There’s no indication that’s in the works. But the church has unexpectedly sold businesses before.

Why does KSL air "Saturday Night Live" repeats but not originals? • Because not airing originals is a programming decision, not a content decision.

When KSL became an NBC affiliate in 1995, it didn’t want to cancel its lucrative "SportsBeat Saturday." Channel 5 offered to air "SNL" later that night; NBC took the show to Channel 30.

"It was a business decision," said Tami Ostmark, KSL’s vice of marketing, research and promotion. "That’s still the case today."

Why did KSL air four episodes of "Hannibal" before yanking it? • Not a clue. The blood was flying from the opening moments of Episode 1. The only plausible explanation is that nobody at KSL watched it. Which they deny.

Is it Scott D. Pierce’s fault KSL yanked "Hannibal"? • Well, Ostmark said my column questioning how Channel 5 could refuse to air "New Normal" and yet air "Hannibal" alerted them to content issues.

"It started with your article," she said.

I did not call for KSL to pull the show. I questioned the inconsistency of KSL’s decisions and questioned parents who worry about sex in the media but not violence. I would have preferred that Channel 5 get over its homophobia and air "The New Normal." Station execs insist it’s not about homophobia. But I’m not buying it.

Will KSL yank more NBC shows in the future? • Without a doubt.

NBC is not going to back off "edgy" programming as it attempts to climb out of the ratings cellar. And there’s no reason to believe KSL won’t continue to object to some of those shows.

It’s not a matter of if this will happen again, it’s a matter of when.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

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