UPN is taking a new approach to prime time pre-emptions: Pre-empt and pay. The network is targeting about a dozen "egregious" offenders as affiliate agreements come up for renewal. In just about every case, the pre-empters have a conflicting sports-rights package. "At some point they're going to have to make a choice," says UPN COO Adam Ware: "Do they want to be an affiliate or do they want to be an independent?"
The network last week came to terms with one mid-sized affiliate with a pro basketball contract. The station gets a single-digit number of pre-emptions gratis, but pays a fee for the next dozen or so, calculated on UPN's ad-revenue loss from reduced coverage. If the station pre-empts beyond that, it's in default and risks losing the affiliation, says Ware.—S.M.
Having lost something like $1.5 million with the twice-delayed Emmys, The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is cutting expenses, including possibly laying off some employees. "We are trimming our overall projections, expenses and revenues by 3%-4% for next year," says ATAS President Jim Chabin. "It may include modest reductions in staff." Insiders say the 60-plus-employee ATAS is looking to give several employees early-retirement packages.—J.S.
Gannett and Hearst-Argyle Television (HTV) executives have had "very preliminary" conversations about melding their TV operations, with Gannett the buyer. Included in the talks, sources say, is Disney, which might get one or more of HTV's ABC affiliates, which include WCVB-TV Boston and WTAE-TV Pittsburgh, in a spin-off.
Brokers say HTV already has some smaller stations on the block. Any deal assumes sunset of the FCC's broadcast-newspaper crossownership rules, which it is currently considering. HTV stock was trading at $20.50 Friday, which values the company at almost $1.9 billion—D.T.—S.M.
Compiled by Decisionmark
Newest digital stations:
Long Beach, Calif. (Ind.)
Dayton, Ohio (CBS)
Lexington, Kent. (PBS)
Owenton, Kent. (PBS)
Peoria, Ill. (PBS)
Cadillac, Mich. (CBS)
Sault Ste Marie, Mich. (CBS)
It's hard to give up the perks. When Jerry Kent quit Charter Communications he got the $900,000 bonus he was owed, kept his company car, and cashed in stock worth $70 million or so. But he still wanted his free cable. A copy of Kent's severance agreement shows that Charter agrees to provide cable service without charge at two Kent properties. Though that may make him look cheap, one Kent associate noted that the two homes each have half a dozen digital converters. "That can really add up."—J.M.H.
A familiar present from Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) to the FCC has been slipped into a spending bill—yet another demand that the agency evaluate the effectiveness of the V-chip and report to Congress. Sources say the senator's request has become an annual ritual. It is particularly easy this year, since Hollings chairs both the Commerce Committee and the appropriations subcommittees that determine the FCC's funding. Hollings would use the report to try to force programmers to limit violent programming to late hours.—P.A.