Salhany exiting UPNetlet

United Paramount Network chairman and CEO Lucie Salhany said Wednesday she is exiting the netlet, choosing not to renew her contract this fall after an embattled three years at the helm.

Salhany will remain in her post until a replacement is found and will be involved in setting the netlet’s fall schedule, to be announced May 20. After she exits, Salhany will relocate to Boston and launch her own advisory company, called J.H. Media Ltd. She will be a consultant to BHC, a subsidiary of UPN partner Chris-Craft, and she’ll remain on the UPN operating committee.

“This has been a long time in the making,” Salhany said. “My husband lives in Boston. We’ve been commuting for 12 years, and I’ve got to get along with my life.”

During her reign as the netlets’s first chief exec, Salhany was under constant scrutiny from Chris-Craft and Paramount, the two partners in the fledgling web, which has been a money-loser.

Speculation about Salhany’s future has been rampant over the past year and heated up several months ago after Viacom’s Paramount exercised its option to take an ownership stake in the netlet. It’s no secret that Salhany and Paramount TV Group chairman Kerry McCluggage have had differences in the past, and rumors of possible replacements at UPN have circulated for months.

Until now, Salhany has maintained publicly that she would stay, but word leaked out that she had put her house on the block and would be heading back East soon. Salhany denied her departure was related to any clash with Par.

Her exit, just weeks before the netlet’s new fall schedule will be presented to advertisers in New York, calls into question the prospects of other key UPN executives, including Michael Sullivan, president of the entertainment division, and Len Grossi, senior executive vice president.

The usual suspects cropped up as potential candidates for the top jobs at UPN: ex-CBS prexy Peter Tortorici, now a senior exec at Carsey-Werner; Tom Thayer, president of Universal TV; Paramount exec VP Tom Mazza; ABC exec Stu Blumberg, who is relocating to L.A. from New York and could land at Universal; and USA Networks programming chief Rod Perth.

Grossi could be upped to the top spot at UPN, but he also was rumored to be eyeing a position at ABC. Par TV Group executive VP Steve Goldman has also been approached, sources said.

Paramount and Chris-Craft launched UPN in January 1995 in response to Time Warner and Tribune’s creation of the WB netlet. Salhany was tapped after she ankled the top job at Fox Broadcasting Co. UPN originally launched with an aim toward young adults with sci-fi programming, led by “Star Trek: Voyager” and comedies.

The network later targeted a young, urban viewership and has had more success with comedies such as “Moesha,” which is now being sold in syndication. The netlet plans to expand to a fourth night, possibly Thursdays, midseason next year. Otherwise, UPN’s schedule is not expected to change dramatically next season.

**contributor:Joe Flint

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