News Corp. Holds Key To UPN's Future

By Amy
March 30, 2001 - 3:58 PM

The future of UPN continues to remain anything but certain, with Viacom president and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin recently conceding that the future of the network more or less rests in the hands of News Corp.

At the Wednesday Q&A session, moderated by ABC News analyst George Stephanopoulos, Karmazin announced that Viacom is considering letting News Corp have an ownership stake in UPN. This move really comes as no surprise - News Corp, thanks to its purchase last year of Chris-Craft, now owns the UPN affiliates in the netlet's top markets - including New York and Los Angeles.

"If we're able to enter into long-term affiliation agreement with the owner of these stations, essentially Fox," he said, "then I sure as hell am prepared to give it every shot and do everything ... to make it profitable."

On to another topic weighing heavily on the minds of those in the entertainment industry - the threat of writers and actors strikes. Karmazin is not optimistic. "I worry about it a lot now. I think there's good reason to worry," he said. "It's probably more probable that there will be a strike"

While he said that he would do everything within his power to avert a strike, he adds that the industry operates on too slim a profit margin to meet the worker's demands. "The problem is that the business we're in is such a small-margin business. The margin of profitability is so small that you don't have the ability to give what they're asking for."

In the event of strike, Viacom, who, aside from UPN, owns CBS and MTV, will assuredly be hit. Karmazin, however, has no current plans to follow suit of Walt Disney Co., who recently announced they'd be laying off around 4,000 staff. How long they can maintain current staffing levels if the strike goes ahead, however, is limited to just how successful the networks would be in using reality series, old movies and news programs to fill the gaps.

More from the Q&A session can be found in this Hollywood Reporter article, or, alternatively, in this report by the Associated Press.

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