Viacom President and COO Mel Karmazin told a Hollywood gathering Wednesday that it was time for a "new paradigm" in CBS and UPN's relationship with its local TV affiliates.
"The business model that a lot of affiliates got used to just doesn't make sense anymore," Karmazin said at a Hollywood Radio and Television Society meeting. "We are going to provide them with programming, we are going to get the NFL for them, we are going to provide their news coverage for them, we are going to spend all of this money on creating programming and pay them.It's illogical that there is an expense item on our books that says that we are going to pay them to carry that programming."
Karmazin added, "We think it's time that we start looking for a new paradigm, one that makes more sense in light of the economics today." He did say CBS' relationship with its affiliates' "sucked less than the other networks."
On the news of Walt Disney's plans to layoff 4,000 employees, Karmazin said there are no plans for layoffs at Viacom and that he couldn't even fathom the idea. "I never can understand how companies find themselves in a position where they have so many people they can let go of," he said. "I just don't understand how you operate in that environment."
On the potential labor strikes in Hollywood, he said he is "very worried" and added that he could settle all of the differences "in five minutes" he could get in on the negotiations. He also said he hopes to keep UPN afloat but it's out of his hands and reiterated that he is interested in splitting the ownership of the network with Fox.
Karmazin was also met by protesters outside of the HRTS luncheon in Beverly Hills, protesters angry over the firing of BET personality Tavis Smiley. "The decision to fire anybody within our company is made by the people who run that division," Karmazin said. "(BET CEO) Bob Johnson made a decision that it was in the best interest of BET to make a change to replace Tavis Smiley. I must tell you that I did not know that he was doing this. I had only found out about it when my phone started ringing off the wall." - Joe Schlosser