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Affils to UPN: Dont retread on me

UPN's fate is still up in the air, but, for the time being, the network's affiliate body isn't interested in becoming a dumping ground for rehashed Viacom and CBS programming.

UPN's affiliate board of governor's raised the issue Sunday, Jan. 21, at its pre-NATPE meetings with network brass, citing UPN's midseason addition of repeats of MTV-produced Celebrity Deathmatch
as cause for worry. The clay-animation series is running in tandem with UPN's new and original clay-animation program, Gary & Mike, on Friday nights.

"We appreciate the network's efforts to stunt those shows to get up the viewership, and, ultimately, we are quite excited to be able to cross-promote when it's appropriate," says Lockwood Broadcasting's Dave Hannah, president of UPN's affiliate board of governors. "I think the network has expressed its desire to keep our brand and make it exclusive, something we want to see. The nice thing is, they are answering our questions right up front, which is encouraging."

UPN President Dean Valentine says it's a complicated issue, but he's not looking to be a network of repeats either-whether it's from co-owned Viacom or not.

"We are not interested in being CBS 2 or Viacom 3 or Fox 1, 2 or 3 or whatever," he said after the affiliates meeting. "We need to be UPN. We need to be the first place that our target audience stops when they turn on the TV. Re-purposing clearly doesn't work toward that end."

Valentine doesn't expect any sort of re-purposing deal with the affiliates to be signed any time soon because of all the questions surrounding the network's future.

"At some point, clearly, it's going to have to be dealt with. The nature of the business is that there are more and more distribution systems being owned by one company and more and more content producers being owned by the same company, and, at some point, there is going to be enough overlap that these issues are going to have to be dealt with. But I don't think we are there yet."

As for News Corp.'s interest in UPN, Hannah says there's been a lot of talk among affiliates, but that's about all.