You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

UPN kids pick Nick, not Mouse

Disney deal breaks down

Buena Vista TV and UPN have called off talks to run a daily two-hour Disney kids block on the netlet, but sources say UPN is now negotiating a similar pact with its sister cable company Nickelodeon.

UPN CEO Dean Valentine told Daily Variety that negotiations to move the Disney-Kellogg alliance out of syndication and onto the network were 80% done before talks broke down over significant deal points that could not be resolved.

Sources said the main issues in dispute concerned control over branding the block and deciding how much FCC-friendly programming Disney would provide.

While Valentine said the split was amicable, Buena Vista TV president Mort Marcus was bitter about the breakup, saying the two sides had a handshake deal last week and that UPN reneged on it.

UPN denies that version of events, though, as do other sources at Disney. A more likely scenario, according to those sources, is that Disney execs outside the syndication division had concerns over launching a branded Disney kids block on a network that competes with its own ABC.

Viacom, which owns half of UPN, may also have been reluctant to launch a Disney block in competition with Viacom-owned Nickelodeon.

Talks between Nickelodeon and UPN have just begun, but if a deal comes to fruition, it will be the first time the cable network provides programming for an outside outlet. Nickelodeon has become the highest-rated source for children’s TV programming, making it a thorn in the side of kids syndicators, Fox Kids Network and the Kids’ WB.

Either way, Valentine is committed to making UPN a force in the kids business, which may be a direct challenge to its rival, the WB.

“We have a long-term obligation to kids,” Valentine said. “We have an obligation to keep the broadcast kids business alive, and the government says we have a legal obligation.”

Some of Nickelodeon’s strongest shows are “Rugrats,” “Hey Arnold!” “Kablam!” and “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” however UPN has not yet negotiated specific shows it could air.

The netlet is still hoping to launch a two-hour kids block Monday through Friday and Sunday mornings, starting in fall 1999 (Daily Variety, Jan. 21). UPN has a deal with Saban to program Sunday mornings next season, but UPN is hoping Nickelodeon will take over those timeslots after one year.

A pact between UPN and Nickelodeon will provide tremendous cross-promotional opportunities for both outlets. It’s unclear whether Nickelodeon is concerned about diluting its brand through UPN, although sources say corporate synergy could win out even if there is reluctance.

Although the network kids business has become tougher, and ad money is scarce, Valentine said he sought and received support from key UPN affiliates before proceeding with any negotiations. A two-hour kids block would mean taking back an additional programming hour per day from affiliates.

Valentine said he believes the broadcast kids business can be profitable if quality is the top priority: “If we put on good programming, the ad dollars will follow,” he said. “Kids are watching Nickelodeon because it’s good.”

A deal with Buena Vista TV most likely would have included a barter ad component for the studio, meaning ad time would have to be split three ways among the network, its affiliates and Disney. That probably won’t be a problem if UPN inks a deal with Nickelodeon.

Marcus at Buena Vista is now left to decide the future of kids syndication at his studio. Timeslots for what was formerly known as the Disney Afternoon have dried up, and he’s seen the WB and UPN expand, which led Buena Vista TV to hand over sales of its syndie block to ad agency Leo Burnett, which subsequently struck a sponsorship deal with Kellogg.

The Disney-Kellogg Alliance continues through fall 1999, and because Marcus anticipated that the UPN deal would go through, he has not sold the block to stations beyond that period.

Separately, UPN on Monday signed an affiliation agreement with WNPA in Pittsburgh to replace a defecting Sinclair station. The station had been an independent since September; before that, it was a WB affiliate.

More Biz

  • Kevin Tsujihara

    Kevin Tsujihara Out as Warner Bros. Chief Amid Sexual Impropriety Scandal

    Kevin Tsujihara has resigned his post as chairman-CEO of Warner Bros. following an investigation into his relationship with actress Charlotte Kirk and allegations he used his clout to help her find work at the studio. In a statement, Tsujihara said he realized “my continued leadership could be a distraction and an obstacle to the company’s [...]

  • TV Ad Sales Upfronts

    NBCUniversal, Sky Make Joint Ad Offering As TV Upfront Looms

    NBCUniversal and Sky PLC will offer joint packages of advertising services, a new effort to monetize the European satellite broadcaster, which was purchased by parent Comcast Corp. for $39 billion last year. Advertisers will be able to reach customers in sundry international markets as well as the United States, using inventory across NBCU and Sky [...]

  • Robert Iger and Rupert Murdochcredit: Disney

    Wall Street Applauds as Disney Nears Finish Line on Fox Acquisition

    Wall Street is rooting for Disney as the media giant reaches the finish line this week in its 15-month quest to acquire most of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire. Fox shareholders, on the other hand, are being a little more cautious. Disney is poised to close the $71.3 billion deal that took many twists [...]

  • Sony Music Names Amanda Collins Head

    Sony Music Names Amanda Collins Global Head of Corporate Communications

    Amanda Collins has been named executive vice president and global head of corporate communications for Sony Music Entertainment, effective immediately, it was announced today by CEO Rob Stringer. According to the announcement, in this role she will be responsible for the company’s global internal and external communications strategy and its implementation around the world, working [...]

  • Trocadero

    Philadelphia’s Iconic Trocadero Theatre to Close, Owner Confirms (EXCLUSIVE)

    After several days of rumors and a last-minute attempt by local promoters to save it, Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theatre — part of the city’s entertainment skyline since 1870 — is closing at the end of May, owner Joanna Pang confirms to Variety. The last of the city’s mid-sized independent live venues, the 1,200-capacity Chinatown performance palace [...]

  • FilMart: China's Times Vision Steps Into

    FilMart: Arthouse Distributor Times Vision Steps Into Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

    This year’s FilMart marks the international sales debut of Beijing-based distributor Times Vision, which brings to Hong Kong a slate led by crime thriller “Savage” and animated feature “Nezha.” The company will be presenting nine live action films, including one documentary, and seven animated titles. Times Vision is led by CEO Nathan Hao, who co-founded [...]

  • Kyle MasseyDDJF Costume for a Cause

    Kyle Massey Sued for Allegedly Sending Explicit Photos, Texts to Minor

    Former “That’s So Raven” star Kyle Massey is being sued for allegedly sending explicit photo, texts, and videos to a 13-year-old girl, court documents filed Friday show. The complaint is for intentional infliction of emotional distress, harmful matter sent with intention of seducing a minor, attempting to commit a lewd act with a minor, and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content