Rupert Murdoch Wants To Partner On UPN With Viacom

By Christian
August 17, 2000 - 1:32 AM

  • Speaking during the presentation of News Corp.'s quarterly financial results, company president Rupert Murdoch said his company has held informal talks with Viacom about becoming partners in UPN. News Corp. recently announced it will be buying the Chris-Craft television station group, gaining control of 8 UPN affiliates, including stations in major markets such as Los Angeles and New York.

    "Certainly, I would like to see a successful development of a sixth (U.S.) network", said Murdoch. "It might not be possible, but we won't walk away from it. [...] In themselves, [the 10 Chris-Craft stations are not enough as a basis for a second network to run alongside Fox TV]. But we are not encouraging CBS to close down UPN. We would like to see that (UPN) developed maybe with us as a partner. We have had informal talks with CBS but there is no progress to report."

    Viacom did not yet want to comment on the statements by Murdoch, just as they have not officially commented yet on the proposed acquistion of Chris-Craft by News Corp. However, Murdoch hinted very strongly he saw possibilities for a partnership. "With the stations we will have and what Paramount (Viacom) has, I can envisage some kind of partnership. We are certainly open for discussions."

  • Meanwhile, IMDB's Studio Briefing is reporting that Fox President Peter Chernin, who only recently said his company didn't much care one way or the other what would happen with UPN, now said he doubts Viacom will shut down UPN. "Both [Viacom chairman] Sumner [Redstone] and [Viacom president] Mel [Karmazin] have spent a large chunk of time in Washington arguing why they want to have two networks and why they want to have two voices for diversity. I'll assume they'll keep it going if they're true to their word," he told the online edition of Broadcasting & Cable.

  • A few days ago, when the News Corp.-Chris-Craft deal was first announced, several analysts already expected News. Corp. would use its strong negotiation position to ask for a stake in UPN. Such a set-up would be very beneficial for the Fox TV unit, which has been looking for an outlet for its sports, news and rerun programming. UPN would also likely benefit from this arrangement, now getting the opportunity for content from two powerful media players, as well as cross-promotion on both CBS and FOX. Only Viacom might have some reservations regarding such a partnership, as the rocky relationship with Chris-Craft was exactly the reason for Viaocm taking full control of UPN in March.

  • Meanwhile, Viacom itself announced on Tuesday it has offered to buy the rest of Infinity Broadcasting Corp, a radio company in which it already has a majority stake. The deal is worth $15.2 billion in stock, giving the company a stronger position in radio and outdoor advertising.

    Infinity was at one time a full daughter of CBS, but was floated on the stock market two years ago. Viacom will be buying back the shares for about twice the price at which they originally debuted then. Several analysts today said they believed the Infinity deal was accelerated by the Viacom's own plans to buy Chris-Craft falling through, freeing up funds to take over Infinity. Viacom now seems to shift its strategy away somewhat from television to radio, unlike what would have happened had it been able to buy Chris-Craft.

  • More on this can be found in this Reuters article on Murdoch's UPN ideas, and this report (also from Reuters) on Infinity. Thanks go out to Jeff 'Koganuts' Koga for the Infinity news!

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