UPN Tries To Secure Its Future

By Caillan
January 11, 2003 - 2:10 AM

Enterprise network UPN has reportedly started negotiations to renew its agreement with Fox affiliates in an attempt to ensure its long-term survival.

CBS president Les Moonves, who assumed responsibility for UPN in late 2001, recently initiated talks with the Fox Television Station Group to secure a "multiyear affiliation agreement," sources told the New York Daily News.

The original contract with Fox affiliates is set to expire at the end of the 2003-2004 season, by which time Enterprise will have completed its third year. With the Fox affiliates comprising 20% of UPN's national coverage, including the key Los Angeles and New York markets, Moonves reportedly wants the deal in place before greenlighting new projects. "If the deal is terminated, there will be no UPN," a source told the newspaper.

Although the ratings for UPN's Monday-night comedy line-up are stable, its best-known shows - Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Enterprise and WWE Smackdown - have suffered from declining viewership this season. UPN has tried to develop new programming to create a distinct identity, but shows such as Haunted, Special Unit 2, As If and The Random Years failed to strike a chord with audiences. Fox executives are conscious of UPN's need to develop new hits if it is to survive. UPN "needs to be young and unique," one executive said.

UPN was originally launched as a partnership between Paramount parent company Viacom and Chris-Craft industries, with both companies holding a 50% stake in the network. In March 2000, Viacom bought out Chris-Craft for $5 million and began negotiations to acquire its affiliate stations. The talks stalled, and Fox's parent company, News Corporation, acquired Chris-Craft and its affiliates for a reported $3.5 billion only a few months later (story). Fox renewed the affiliate contract with UPN, enabling the former Chris-Craft stations to continue carrying UPN programming.

The original report can be found here at the New York Daily News. Thanks to Jose Gonzalez for this!

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