Morning UPN Bullets

By Christian
August 14, 2000 - 11:09 AM

Following the news about News Corp. intending to buy Chris-Craft's television station group, including many UPN affiliates, and the effects that could have for the network's future, several news items regarding this have surfaced over the weekend. More news is to be expected later on today when the companies involved are likely to make press announcements.

  • According to a Reuters report, trading of shares in News Corp. was suspended in Australia this morning, awaiting an official announcement from the company regarding the Chris-Craft acquisition.

  • And another Reuters report talks about the cost savings News Corp. could benefit from through the acquisition. The price News Corp. is reportedly offering, $85 per share, represents a 36% premium to Chris-Craft's closing share price on Friday, but analysts said News Corp's higher profit margins and the resulting strong position in the television market will make the higher price worth it.

  • Meanwhile, an article from Cynthia Littleton at the Hollywood Reporter looks at the specific effects this could have for UPN. News Corp. sources of the trade paper stressed over the weekend that no decisions had been made on whether or not to renew the UPN affiliations for the stations, but considering the contracts already run out in January and involve some of the nation's most important markets, News Corp. gets leverage to to demand hefty compensation or an ownership stake in UPN in exchange for the renewals.

    Viacom could try to cut a deal with another company with stations in these markets, such as USA Broadcasting, but this would give these companies the same leverage dynamic.

  • Another option suggested in a Los Angeles Time Article, which Viacom COO Mel Karmazin is reportedly already considering, would be to close UPN before the fall prime-time season begins. However, this would leave the 19 UPN affiliates owned by Viacom itself, as well as the independent stations with a UPN affiliation contract, with a lack of programming in the coming months. Analysts said this prospect alone could lead Viacom to try and make at least a short-term deal with News Corp. or another company.

    An important point to consider is that production is already well underway for all of the UPN Fall shows. In case UPN would shut down, it seems likely that these programs, including 'Star Trek: Voyager', would air their remaining episodes in syndication. As most of the stations losing their UPN affiliation would still need programming for the coming months, there is a good chance Voyager's final season will still air on the same stations the show used to last year.

  • Check back later today for more news on this.

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