Chris-Craft stays course

Chris-Craft Television is bent on establishing a fifth network with or without its partner Paramount.

The station group reportedly will seek to align with another studio if QVC Network chairman Barry Diller gains control of Par and carries out his threat to quash the weblet.

Diller, whose chances of acquiring Par increased substantially following Thursday’s Delaware Supreme Court decision, has publicly questioned the need for another general entertainment broadcast network and vowed to sell off Par’s TV stations.

But sources familiar with the Par/Chris-Craft weblet plan say it won’t strictly be a broad-scale programming service1geared exclusively toward the 18- 49 demographic.

Par, citing competitive reasons, has closely guarded the programming element of its network blueprint. So far, the only series announced by Par is a new “Star Trek” spinoff series that will serve as the anchor of the weblet.

And sources note that Diller’s comments about selling off the Par stations, which along with the Chris-Craft outlets will serve as the weblet’t core, came before Tele-Communications Inc. pulled out of the deal to acquire Par.

Without the backing of industry giant TCI, Par/Chris-Craft backers are hoping Diller might be more inclined to keep the stations — although one source close to QVC noted that other backers for Par may pose regulatory problems that would force the sale of the stations.

Should Diller get the studio and abandon the weblet, sources point to a contingency provision in the partnership agreement that would permit either party to continue without the other.

Par officials declined to comment, but sources say the studio is bound to provide the “Star Trek” sequel regardless of its ultimate ownership stake in the weblet.

And stations that have signed up for the programming service are also required to stay put.

Broadcast community sources suggest that Par’s ultimate participation has not been a crucial factor in hammering out affiliation agreements — even in key markets where the Par net has struck more lenient deals because of competition from the rival Warner Bros. network.

With the contingency plans, backers of the Par net say Diller’s remarks have not hampered the studio’s ability to sign up new affiliates. Par is reportedly negotiating with several key station groups over the weblet, which has 38% coverage.

The WB net is at 73% coverage, but approximately 30% comes from Tribune’s Chicago basic cable superstation WGN-TV, which doesn’t have wide penetration in many markets.

Still others insist that Par fifth network efforts have ground to a halt because station execs are concerned about a possible Diller takeover of the studio.

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