Viacom pledges better plugs for UPN

CBS and UPN executives briefed members of the UPN affiliate board Monday and
promised stations a significantly expanded effort to cross-promote UPN on an
array of Viacom Inc.-owned properties, including cable, radio and broadcast TV.

Network programmers also filled the stations in on more than one-dozen shows
that are in development for midseason and beyond, a slate one station executive
praised as "A-level."

As one example of increased UPN cross-platform promotion, Leslie Moonves,
president and CEO of CBS Television, cited UPN's hip-hop music show,
Platinum, which will get promo time on both MTV: Music Television and Black Entertainment Television, two Viacom-owned
cable networks.

In addition, he said, the Viacom-owned Infinity Broadcasting Corp. radio stations
will promote the network.

"We're aware of our strengths and weaknesses," Moonves said. "We have solid
development, and we are committed to making UPN work."

Stations liked what they heard: "It was the single-best meeting I've had with
the network since I've been involved with UPN," said affiliate-board chairman
Dave Hanna, president of Lockwood Broadcast Group.

UPN affiliate-board member Richard Jones, general manager of XUPN(TV) San
Diego, agreed. For the first time, he said, shows in development "look like
A-level programming. I can't say we've really had much A-level product up to
this point."

Jones said CBS and UPN executives briefing them, including Moonves and
UPN Entertainment president Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff, laid out a "focused plan"
for reaching a multicultural audience in the 18-through-34 demographic
throughout the week on the nights UPN programs.

What remains to be seen is what happens with SmackDown!, the Thursday-night wrestling show. CBS is currently in negotiations with World Wrestling
Entertainment Inc. on renewing the show.

UPN has struggled all season, and there was skepticism on the part of some
affiliate-board members about CBS' commitment going forward.

But just about every question on the board's list was anticipated by the
network and addressed very candidly, Jones said. "I came away feeling very
pleased with the direction they're taking," he added.

There's also good news on the distribution front, said Peter Schruth,
president of affiliate relations for both CBS and UPN.

Starting April 1, UPN will have an affiliate in St. Louis, which has been a
big hole in UPN's distribution.

The new station is a converted home shopping channel owned by Roberts
Broadcasting Co.