Inside Move: Fox presses UPN suit

Legal maneuvers continue despite affil accord

UPN and the Fox Television Stations group kissed — but have yet to make up.

Fox continues to move forward with its $108 million lawsuit against UPN, even after the News Corp. division sealed a new affiliation deal in September with the Viacom-owned network.

At the time, most observers thought the lawsuit had been introduced as a negotiating tool and would simply go away. In fact, both sides agreed to put the complaint aside and readdress it later.

Instead, Fox — which owns UPN’s top affils in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, among other markets — has now moved forward with the complaint, which was initially filed last February in New York, before the station group moved it to Los Angeles later that summer.

Fox recently served subpoenas to several high-level former UPN execs in a move likely designed to determine the strength of its case. Execs believed to be giving depositions on the case this month include former UPN chief exec Dean Valentine and chief operating officer Adam Ware, as well as ex-Paramount TV Group topper Kerry McCluggage.

The beef revolves around money Fox believes its UPN affils are owed from back when they were still owned by Chris-Craft. Fox argues that Chris-Craft, which sold off its stations in 2001, left some money on the table that it deserved via its favored nations clause with UPN.

Some insiders say the suit doesn’t represent anything more than the Fox stations believing they’re owed money — and want to collect.

But others continue to scratch their heads, noting that most disputes of this nature are resolved behind closed doors, not by lawsuit. And with the affiliation renegotiation between both sides out of the way, the suit may be News Corp.’s way of maintaining some piece of leverage in its relationship with rival Viacom.

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