NEW YORK — In a move that will give Miami two network-owned TV stations, CBS Inc. said Monday that it will buy independent WCIX-TV for $59 million--or $211 million less than NBC paid for another station there last year.
"We have maintained that the station business is good but that it has been overpriced," CBS spokesman George Schweitzer said in an indirect dig at NBC's earlier bidding against CBS for WTVJ-TV in Miami, the nation's 16th-largest television market.
Last year, NBC--taken over in 1986 by General Electric--and G.E. Property Management Inc., a General Electric subsidiary, bought WTVJ from Wometco Broadcasting Co. for $270 million.
Ironically, that station is a CBS affiliate. But its affiliation ends in January, when the franchise will be moved to WCIX, Schweitzer said.
NBC officials were not immediately available for comment.
NBC's current Miami affiliate is WSVN-TV, whose NBC contract also ends in January. Last year, when it was in the process of purchasing WTVJ, NBC told executives of Sunbeam Television Corp., owner of WSVN, that it would switch NBC's affiliation to WTVJ when the network's contract with WSVN expired.
CBS' agreement to buy WCIX from TVX Broadcast Group of Norfolk, Va., will return to five the number of TV stations that CBS owns. KCBS-TV Channel 2 in Los Angeles and WCBS-TV in New York are among the other stations.
NBC's purchase last year of WTVJ and the assumption of responsibility for Denver station KCNC-TV, originally owned by GE, means that NBC now owns seven television stations, including KNBC-TV Channel 4 in Burbank and WNBC-TV in New York.
ABC owns eight, among them KABC-TV Channel 7 in Los Angeles and WABC-TV in New York.
CBS' new purchase, still subject to federal approval, comes two years after its sale of KMOX-TV in St. Louis for $122 million. CBS officials said then that the station was being sold because they felt that there wasn't much potential for growth in the St. Louis area, the nation's 18th-largest TV market.
They gave the opposite reason Monday for buying WCIX. Eric Ober, president of the CBS television stations division, said in a statement that the "fast-growing Miami market offers a terrific expansion opportunity for us."
Federal law allows companies to own up to 12 TV stations, provided the stations don't collectively reach more than 25% of the nation's television homes.
ABC's stations are near that limit, reaching 24.4% of the national audience, while NBC's stations reach 22.4%. CBS estimated Monday that with WCIX, its stations will reach a total of 20.8% of the national audience.