Par net nabs WDZL-TV

The fledgling Paramount Network has signed Renaissance Communications’ WDZL-TV in Miami as an affiliate — fueling the increasingly bitter competition between that venture and a proposed rival Warner Bros. network.

The signing, representing the U.S.’ 16th-largest TV market, sparked thinly veiled criticism by Warner Bros. of Paramount’s tactics, since Renaissance was cited as one of its allies in the WB Network’s initial launch announcement.

Sources indicate there may have been some major behind-the-scenes arm-twisting by Paramount and its partner, Chris-Craft, to secure the deal, as the two studio-backed program services grapple for limited shelf space.

“A successful business is created on a foundation of trust, not coercion,” said WB spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti. “WB is not reliant on any one station and will not prostitute ourselves to get one or keep one.”

WB added that there are other potential independent outlets for its programming in Miami and that it’s currently in discussions with one of them — most likely Combined Communications’ WBFS-TV. WB also could clear Miami via its arrangement with Chicago-based Tribune superstation WGN.

Paramount countered by saying that WDZL made its choice based solely “on the merits of the (Paramount) network’s plan and its programming.”

Renaissance had a previous relationship with Warner Bros. through the Prime Time Entertainment Network (PTEN), an ad-hoc syndicated program block distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution. Officials at the station group couldn’t be reached for comment.

Paramount said its proposed network now has agreements with 19 stations — including 12 of the top 20 TV markets — accounting for roughly 40% of U.S. households. WB has slightly higher reach via broadcasters, plus access to an additional 30% of the country over Chicago-based Tribune superstation WGN, though the ultimate effectiveness of that part of the formula has been questioned by some analysts as well as its rival.

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