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As their relationship draws to a close, UPN and Salt Lake City outlet KJZZ-TV aren’t keeping their affiliation meltdown quiet.

Although UPN ultimately decided to pull its affiliation from KJZZ rather than continue paying the station compensation, KJZZ had also expressed reluctance to air UPN’s minority-themed programming.

According to a copy of KJZZ’s final affiliation renewal proposal obtained by Daily Variety, the station demanded the right to drop UPN if the network added any more series deemed too “urban.”

In the letter, submitted to UPN two weeks ago, KJZZ — run by Larry Miller, who also owns the Utah Jazz basketball franchise — requested the option, “with 90 day written notice, to cancel this contract should UPN increase the urban/ethnic programming above the current two hours per week.”

According to the netlet, KJZZ also requested — though not in writing –the right to move UPN’s Monday night block of urban sitcoms out of primetime permanently.

UPN and KJZZ ultimately couldn’t come to terms over an affiliate renewal, and UPN announced last week that it will move its affiliation in the market from KJZZ to home shopping outlet KAZG effective mid-January, sealing a 10-year pact in the process.

Viability concerns

KJZZ general manager Randy Rigby admitted he was concerned about the viability of urban-themed programming in the market, but that it was a financial issue.

“My concern was that if they continued to develop urban programming that would erode viewership further,” Rigby said. “We had some concerns with the programming not necessarily delivering to this local market the ratings and viewership that we were promised it would deliver.”

But given the current concerns over the lack of minority representation in primetime TV, the no-more-ethnic-shows clause raised more than a few eyebrows at UPN.

Terms ‘unacceptable’

“Obviously the terms and ultimatums were unacceptable and bordered on outrageous,” said UPN chief operating officer Adam Ware. “Specifically, the deal term that we would not be able to offer any more programming that featured African Americans or other ethnic groups was offensive. We’re proud of our record on diversity.”

Rigby accused UPN of using the race card to deflect the real disagreement between the netlet and KJZZ, which besides affil compensation also included issues of primetime preemptions.

“That’s not our style here,” Rigby said. “I think that’s unfair. We were simply looking at the economics of all our programming. ”

Beyond the ethnic composition issue, UPN balked at terms that included the right to delay UPN programming by 1-1/2 hours after Utah Jazz games in favor of off-net fare including “Friends” and “Frasier.” The network currently allows KJZZ to preempt programming at least 55 times a year for Jazz coverage.

On the issue of compensation, which UPN has made an effort of phasing out with its stations, KJZZ ultimately agreed to give up comp –but the station still asked for $100,000 annually in co-op money, above the standard figure given to stations, to help develop a sports package with the Utah Jazz and the U. of Utah to promote UPN programming.

On the flip side, Rigby said his primetime UPN ratings hadn’t been up to snuff. “We’re taking a financial bath in primetime,” he said.

UPN disagreed, noting that the network’s ratings grew by 39% in households from May 1999 to May 2000 in the market. Network execs also said KJZZ rarely promoted UPN programming and minimized the station’s UPN identity.

“The reality is they’ve been telling us all along that the ethnic programming doesn’t work in Salt Lake,” said Steve Carlston, UPN’s affiliate relations and marketing exec VP. “Randy is a dear friend of mine, but I think he misjudged some of the opportunities that we have in the marketplace. … If he doesn’t like our programming or thinks it’s too ethnic and racy, then let’s find someone who sees the value in it.”

KJZZ also accused UPN of negotiating with KAZG at the same time it was dealing with KJZZ, a charge UPN firmly denied.

UPN execs, however, took Rigby’s letter, in which he said KJZZ would announce its independence last Friday if a deal was not struck, as an ultimatum.

“We had no other choice (but to swap affiliates),” Ware said. “We’re not going to pay comp.”

KAZG is owned by Venture Technologies, with whom UPN is already affiliated via stations in Las Vegas, Peoria, Ill., and Lansing, Mich. Net execs said they drew up a new deal in Salt Lake City within 48 hours last week after the talks with KJZZ broke down.

UPN continues to phase out affiliate compensation as contracts come up for renewal, Carlston said. “We’ve been saying it from day one: I feel the network provides value to a broadcast station,” he said. “There’s no need for us to pay compensation for people to air it.”

Meanwhile, UPN also recently struck a new five-year, no-compensation deal with Boise, Ida., affil KNIN and renewed its pact with Charlotte, N.C., affil WJZY.