UPN forges ahead

Weblet optimistic despite distrib shakeup

UPN launches its fall season Wednesday with a slightly weaker distribution system than a year ago, but network officials don’t expect to take much of a hit.

Not only did UPN migrate to weaker UHF outlets in two top 25 markets, but the network lost a handful of medium-sized primary affiliates, as stations in Spokane, Wash., Honolulu and Madison, Wis., switched to the WB. UPN also lost primary clearance in Jacksonville, Fla., where the station switched to CBS.

Still, the moves aren’t as dramatic as Fox’s 1994 grab of major-market CBS affils, or the WB’s 1997 grab of Sinclair-owned UPN stations.

Fox, meanwhile, is already seeing its fortunes improve in Minneapolis and Portland, where the net bounced from a UHF station to a much more powerful, heritage VHF outlet. Three days last week, after Fox bounced from WFTC, Channel 29, to KMSP, Channel 9, the network was already boasting double-digit improvements in primetime.

Fox Broadcasting made the decision to switch the affiliations after purchasing the Chris-Craft station group, which included KMSP. The purchase gave Fox a duopoly in Minneapolis (market No. 14). Having owned both stations, News Corp. was able to seamlessly promote the switch on both stations.

As for Portland (market No. 23), Fox moved to KPTV (Channel 12) as part of a complicated swap with Meredith, the station’s new owner. Meredith already owned Fox affil KPDX (Channel 49) and agreed to take over Chris-Craft’s UPN affil KPTV (Channel 12). In exchange, Meredith gave News Corp. its Orlando Fox affil.

As part of the deal, Meredith –which now owns a duopoly in Portland — agreed to put the Fox affiliation on Channel 12 and move UPN to Channel 49.

“We believe in the viewers’ ability to find good programming,” a UPN spokeswoman said. “These moves were highly publicized locally and in the first few weeks our ratings are up in both markets.”

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