Viacom President To UPN: Make Profit Or Shut Down

By Christian
June 9, 2000 - 9:10 PM

Mel Karmazin, president and chief operating officer of Viacom, said yesterday that the company would sell off or shut down UPN if the network would fail to meet the performance criteria expected by Viacom of all its operating units, according to a report by Mimi Turmer and Matthew Doman at the Hollywood Reporter.

Karmazin made these comments during a meeting with investors in London, saying that he expected the network would quickly become profitable, now that it is under full control of Viacom. "UPN will become profitable, or it won't exist. If we can't make it profitable, we don't need it."

Despite these seemingly menacing words, Karmazin, president of CBS before that company merged with Viacom, said that he would "take a million-dollar bet" that UPN would be able to turn into a profit-maker rather than face closure. This would apparently be accomplished by using CBS' experience. "At the moment, UPN is only programming about two hours a night, and we'll take that 10 hours and replace it with programming from our own network."

Crisis talks with UPN have already been planned. "We have some interesting ideas, and we have a meeting set up. We will either make UPN profitable or it will cease to exist. [...] We already have the CBS network, which is highly profitable. We don't need another network."

These statements from the Viacom president come at a rather surprising time. Less than two weeks ago (story), after intensive lobbying by Viacom, did the Federal Communications Commission change its regulations to allow Viacom to keep UPN. Also, during the network's recent upfront presenation executives proudly announced UPN's strong ratings increase since last season, indicating that things were going a lot better with the network.

More on Karmazin's comments, as well as a look at the recent history of UPN, can be found in the full article.

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