CLEVELAND, July 8 -- CBS Inc. said Friday it has signed an affiliate agreement with Fox outlet WOIO-TV in Cleveland, beginning Aug. 29, as the scramble among networks for affiliates continued. CBS had lost Cleveland affiliate WJW-TV, which broadcasts on Channel 8, to Fox as part of Fox's May raid on eight CBS affiliates. Fox paid $500 million for a 20 percent interest in New World Communications in exchange for the right to affiliate with 12 major VHF stations that are owned or are being acquired by New World Communications, owner of WJW. The five-year deal means CBS has replaced three of the eight stations it lost in the raid and still must find outlets in major cities such as Detroit and Atlanta. Rumors have emerged that CBS may try to buy WATL in Atlanta from Fox and WKBD in Detroit from Viacom's Paramount unit, which bought the station last year from Cox Enterprises for $105 million. WJW broadcasts on the VHF frequency, while WOIO is on the weaker UHF frequency. Nine-year-old WOIO, which broadcasts on Channel 19, is owned by the Malrite Communications Group of Cleveland. WOIO executives said the station, which currently does not have its own news programs, plans to offer 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts, but declined comment that a proposed joint operating agreement announced last month with independent WUAB-TV in Cleveland might result in WUAB news programs being aired on WOIO. The affiliate switch will result in 'The Late Show with David Letterman' airing at 11:30 p.m. Channel 8 has been airing the program at midnight, after the New World-produced 'Valley of the Dolls.'
CBS reportedly prefers the Letterman show be telecast at 11:30 p.m. to take advantage of a larger audience and allow the show to compete with NBC's 'Tonight' and ABC's 'Nightline.' Dennis Thatcher, vice president and general manager of WOIO, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that CBS has 'never been happy the show is seen here at midnight and not at 11:30 p.m.' 'I think they liked the fact that we would jump right into the affiliation and not hold back at all,' he added. Tony Malara, president of CBS affiliation relations in New York, confirmed the network considers the Letterman show's schedule of major importance and that Channel 19 was eager to meet CBS' wishes. 'The fact of the matter is, it ain't exactly chopped liver we're offering,' Malara said. Earlier this week, Washington Post Co. and NBC announced they had reached a long-term agreement renewing affiliations of WDIV in Detroit and KPRC in Houston. The Post-NBC deal meant that CBS lost another possible option for a Detroit television affiliate. It has been looking for a new TV affiliate in the Motor City because its current affiliate -- WJBK-TV, Channel 2 -- will switch to the Fox Network next fall. CBS was blocked last month from setting up a new deal in Detroit when Capital Cities/ABC and Scripps Howard Broadcasting signed a deal that renewed their committment to WXYZ-TV, Channel 7. Wall Street analysts have said CBS may have managed to end the defections with its announcement last week that it will merge with QVC Network Inc. and let QVC Barry Diller run CBS. Diller is widely regarded as the industry's top programmer, given his credentials in launching the Fox Network eight years ago at a time when some analysts believed network television was facing eventual extinction from the cable networks. Both CBS and NBC have been reported this week as being in talks with Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s Group W subsidiary about affiliating its five major market stations with a single network. Group W's stations are in important markets such as Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco, with two carrying NBC affiliations, two with CBS and one with ABC. A report has also emerged that CBS affiliate WHDH of Boston is considering leaving for Fox. The station is owned by Sunbeam Television Corp., which also owns Fox affiliate WSVN in Miami.