UPN Awaits More Change

UPN Awaits More Change
UPN Buys Lunch For WJZY

Domino’s definitely delivered in Charlotte last Friday, as UPN sent cheese pizzas to its top 130-plus primary affiliates in the nation with the note, “Let’s do launch.” Capitol Broadcasting Company’s UPN affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, WJZY, received 18 large pizzas as a part of the promotional effort by UPN.

With the delivery came a plea for promotional time on the stations, an effort to launch UPN’s new fall season in hopes of doing well enough in ratings to keep the affiliate alive. “We are up against a lot of things,” read the note from UPN COO Adam Ware. “We need your support to make this season a big success too. . . . So here is a thank you.” WJZY Station Manager Mark Gray appreciated the effort, “The pizza was a nice gesture, and the comment about promo time in the letter was done in a joking manner. 18 large pizzas is a lot of pizza, though.”

UPN’s latest promotional pizza ploy is an attempt at acquiring a stay of execution from Viacom and News Corp. In August, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. purchased Chris-Craft Industries, Inc. and its ten, mostly UPN, television stations. Because News Corp. owns the Fox television network, questions have arisen about whether or not Fox will swallow UPN, killing the UPN label. At the current time UPN will remain on the air for the remainder of the 2000-2001, at least. When Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone purchased CBS Corporation in May 2000, UPN affiliates were part of that deal as well.

Born on January 16, 1995, UPN was parented by Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Television and Chris-Craft subsidiary BHC Communications, Inc. When Viacom and CBS agreed to merge, BHC filed suit in New York State Supreme Court on February 8, 2000, to stop the merger because it violated a noncompete clause in the UPN joint venture; the terms of noncompete were to last until January 15, 2001, according to the clause. The request was denied and in May of 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the merger of Viacom and CBS. Viacom became the sole owner of UPN when it purchased the other 50% of the network from BHC for a reported $5 million.

Then Chris-Craft and Viacom began new negotiations for Viacom to purchase Chris-Craft’s television group, which operates 10 TV stations in major U.S. markets. After talks fell through with Viacom, News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch walked and purchased Chris-Craft Industries and its stations for $5.4 billion in cash and stock.

The next wrinkle is that the broadcast-station-ownership cap is now set at coverage of 35% of the 100 million TV homes. These two acquisitions put both companies over this cap. Both Viacom and News Corp. will have one year to divest or swap some stations unless the FCC relaxes ownership rules. News Corp. has duopolies, cities in which the companies own two major network stations in the same viewing area, one of which is in nearby Greensboro, North Carolina.

Some analysts predict that UPN will be dissolved because of these mergers, with News Corp.’s Fox creating a Fox II in lieu of the UPN label on the stations it owns. Others predict that the FCC will loosen the ownership cap.

Mark Gray

WJZY Station Manager

WJZY Station Manager Mark Gray commented on the frenzy around the iffy future of the UPN label, “The only way we can move is to move forward under the assumption that UPN will continue to exist and plan on that basis. We’re excited about a good season ahead . . . now that UPN is focused we’ve seen good progress in audience growth over the last year in UPN prime.”

Just last month UPN announced a name change from United Paramont Network to the Paramount Network and began working on uses of the new logo. Discussions about the name are also proceeding as planned. WJZY still anticipates a logo change in January and is working on creating the logo now.

WJZY first went on the air as Metro-Crescent Communications on March 9, 1987. Capitol Broadcasting became the sole owner in November of 1987, and the station became known as WJZY in July of 1988. WJZY originated as one of the premiere independent stations in the country and was known as WJZY-TV46, Your Movie Station.

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