United Television, a subsidiary of UPN co-owner Chris-Craft Industries, has struck a deal with HSN’s Silver King Broadcasting to buy Silver King’s UHF TV station in Baltimore for a hefty $80 million.
The deal marks another twist in the distribution battle between netlets UPN and the WB Network, which has helped boost the value of UHF stations in the top 100 markets over the past three years.
Silver King’s WHSW-TV is a Home Shopping Network affiliate, which presently pulls in a fraction of the ratings generated by other commercial stations in the market. Silver King bought the station for $15.2 million in 1986.
For UPN, the purchase ensures that the netlet will be on the air next year in Baltimore, the nation’s 23rd-largest TV market. For HSN, the media conglom controlled by Barry Diller, the sale provides ready cash to fund the company’s plans to launch new localized formats on its Home Shopping affils in Miami and other markets.
UPN was poised to lose its Baltimore clearance in mid-January when the netlet’s current affil, WNUV-TV, is set to defect to the WB side along with four other major-market stations owned by WNUV’s parent company, Sinclair Communications. That deal sparked an exchange of lawsuits between UPN and Sinclair earlier this year.
United Television’s move into the Baltimore market may have been prodded by the Sinclair-UPN fallout, but sources close to the situation say United/Chris-Craft has long been looking to beef up its station holdings in the top 25 markets. Sinclair, meanwhile, is said to be looking to switch its six remaining UPN affils to the WB fold once their existing affiliation agreements expire next year.