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LIN Uncertain About CW, Says Chapman

The CW affiliation is up for grabs in several markets where LIN Television owns WB- or UPN-affiliated stations, but the station group says it may consider other options than affiliating with the new network. 

“We are also not certain if this is really the model that we want to go,” LIN TV Chairman Gary Chapman said Thursday on a conference call with analysts. “The truth of the matter is these networks ceased operation because it was not a viable business plan. WB lost money. UPN lost money. Neither one of them had great rating success, yet they occupied over 10 hours of prime time on our television stations.”

The CW, slated to launch in September when the WB and UPN shut down, is just beginning to contact stations for its affiliation. The new network will likely seek reverse compensation payments from affiliates, a deal point that is causing many station owners to bristle.  Most WB and UPN stations do not pay their networks and some WB affiliates received compensation for carrying its feed.

LIN owns 7 WB and UPN stations, but says that the network prime time accounts for only 1.5% of its revenues. LIN CFO Vince Sandusky noted that the company’s WB and UPN stations already program roughly 22 out of 24 hours a day on their own. If the stations do not go with CW, he said, ““Call it a worst-case scenario if you will, but we operate these television stations as independents and provide syndicated programming for those two hours.”

LIN already knows that its UPN station in Indianapolis, WNDY, will not be a CW station. As part of Tribune Broadcasting’s broad distribution deal with CW, the Tribune-owned WB station in Indianapolis will become a CW station.