Group swaps affil for UPN net

Acme Television, the station group headed by WB Network chief Jamie Kellner, has taken the curious step of trading its WB affiliate station in Albuquerque, N.M., for the UPN affil in the market.

Acme, however, will wind up managing both stations through a time brokerage agreement with Ramar Communications, which is selling UPN affil KASY and acquiring Acme’s KWBQ. The Acme station just signed on the air March 4.

And while the WB and UPN have gone through bruising affiliate recruiting battles, KASY is contractually bound to remain a UPN affiliate for at least two more years.

Tom Allen, exec VP of Acme, said the deal was prompted by Acme’s interest in operating two stations in the market, allowing for economies of scale. In purchasing KASY, Acme acquires the station’s “translator” signal repeater facilities, which are crucial to strengthening a station’s reach in the mountainous and sprawling Albuquerque/Santa Fe market.

“We really believe in the growth potential of the Pacific Southwest,” said Allen. “We’re happy to have two emerging network affiliates in a market where we think they have good upside potential.”

But UPN brass nonetheless were skeptical of their rival’s motive and sought to reinforce the distinction between UPN, whose co-parents Viacom and Chris Craft own TV stations, and the WB’s majority owner, Time Warner, which is barred by federal cross-ownership regs from owning TV stations because of its cable system holdings.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more