Chris-Craft To Extend UPN Affiliation Agreement

By Christian
November 15, 2000 - 10:00 PM

In mid-August, UPN's future seemed on the line when Viacom announced it had stopped talks to acquire station group UPN, and competitor News Corp. instead stepped in to take over the company. As UPN's affiliation agreement with the television stations owned by Chris-Craft, most of them located in major markets such as Los Angeles or New York, was going to expire on the 1st of January, the netlet's future prospects suddenly took a turn for the worse. Today, however, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch made several comments that at least make UPN's short-term future look a bit more secure.

While talking at the annual Fox Entertainment shareholders meeting in New York, Murdoch said that News Corp. will recommend that Chris-Craft extend its UPN affiliation agreement beyond the 1st of January. The Chris-Craft takeover is expected to be completed by the 30th of June, so formally News Corp. could not order the station group to extend the affiliation, but of course it seems highly likely Chris-Craft will indeed grant this request from its future owner.

In addition to this, Murdoch also again said that News Corp. would be open to a joint ownership of UPN with Viacom, but he declined to elaborate on continuing talks between the two companies about the UPN-affiliated stations. Previously, analysts gave News Corp. good chances of getting Viacom to agree to a joint venture, thanks to the leverage of these major-market stations. A joint-venture operation would tremendously benefit News Corp., as it would give its Fox Entertainment subsidiary another outlet for its programming.

Viacom declined to comment on any of Murdoch's comments. More info on this can be found in a Bloomberg report on the shareholders meeting, which I was pointed to by TrekWeb.

Meanwhile, UPN itself again appears to be heading towards a relatively strong season, 'Voyager' not included. According to a report from Variety, the network's overall ratings are up compared to last year, with especially its Tuesday Night movies and 'WWF Smackdown!' on Thursdays performing well. Both shows recently turned in best-ever men 18-34 ratings with regularly scheduled programming on their respective nights.

On Mondays, UPN's urban comedy block is also still performing as well as ever, of course getting high ratings in the minority demographic it targets, but its new Friday dramas 'Freedom' and 'Level Nine' aren't performing nearly as well as the network has hoped. And as previously reported, on Wednesday 'Voyager' has turned in some very disappointing ratings so far this season.

Still, with overall ratings in the important male demographics up again for UPN this season, this would seem to at least increase its chances of survival a bit. In January, the network will relaunch as The Paramount Network, which should give it some more name recognition. Whether the flagship Paramount TV title, Star Trek, also continues to be on UPN still remains to be seen.

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