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UPN pursues a prexy with an Eye to future

Moonves set to choose entertainment topper

CBS topper Leslie Moonves said he has no plans to turn UPN into the Eye Too net now that he’s running both shops.

In his most detailed remarks yet about UPN’s future, Moonves on Monday confirmed that he plans to appoint a separate entertainment prexy for the netlet to supervise an independent UPN development team. Net also will maintain its separate headquarters for now, as well as its name.

UPN “will continue to be an independent brand with a distinct personality and distinct target audiences,” Moonves told journos during the UPN portion of the semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour. “There’s been some suggestion that UPN will become CBS 2. While we’re going to make the most of joint opportunities, it’s safe to say that is absolutely not going to happen.”

Moonves gave props to recently departed UPN topper Dean Valentine, saying Valentine left the web in strong shape and “positioned for great growth.”

Eye chief wouldn’t discuss which, if any, current UPN execs may still leave the network. He also declined to speculate about possible entertainment prexy candidates, including former Sony and ATG exec Eric Tannenbaum.

Moonves, did, however say he’s already talked to a few potential candidates — enough to form a short list of front-runners.

As for how quickly Moonves’ bosses expect to see UPN creep into profitability, he said there’s “no direct timetable or clock” for a turnaround coming from Viacom chief Mel Karmazin.

“It’s true that one of my goals is to make UPN profitable,” he said. “I know you all think Mel is an impatient man, but he’s a smart man. He’s a businessman. So I think we will have the time to do what we want and get the finances in better shape.”

While Moonves plans on maintaining two separate development teams for CBS and UPN, he expects plenty of communication between them. “I want these people talking to each other,” he said. “There are great people at both networks, and the idea is to cooperate with each other.”

The ever-competitive Moonves also relished the chance to take on a new foe, even in a friendly way. After reciting a litany of positive UPN Nielsen stats, Moonves took a few swipes at UPN rival the WB by noting UPN is ahead of the Frog net in many demos.

“We have a new enemy to pick on. It’s great,” he quipped. “Can’t pick on ABC or NBC anymore. So now I have to go after WB, and I’m going to,” he said.

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