On the Sixth Day, UPN Still Rests

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CBS and UPN executives told the UPN affiliate board of governors Monday that the time is not yet right to add a sixth night of programming on UPN and that there is no target date for doing so.

Dave Hanna, chairman of the UPN affiliate board and president of Bell Broadcasting Co. -- which includes WUPV-TV Richmond, Va. -- said affiliates were OK with that. "They're going to do it when they're ready and have the right programming, and that's good news," he added.

"It's clear that it's going to happen" at some point, Hanna said. The network needs the additional night to help move it into profitability.

Hanna added that he was highly confident, given remarks by CBS Television CEO Leslie Moonves, that CBS is committed to putting the resources into UPN that will, at some point, put that network into the black.

"I'm just glad I don't have to answer questions anymore about whether we're going to make it," he said. "It's not a matter of if, but when."

It has been a good year for UPN, which has gained ratings ground on The WB Television Network this season by staying essentially flat while The WB has dropped.

Hanna said the board was pleased with the development slate laid out by UPN programming head Dawn Ostroff. "It's clear that with the amount of development and the foundation Dawn is laying with the creative community, we're in a real good position." He added that CBS is fixing UPN just as it fixed itself: "One show at a time."

The affiliate board added two new members: Jim Clayton, president and general manager of WNYW-TV and co-owned UPN affiliate WWOR-TV, the Fox-owned duopoly in New York; and Paul Koplin of Venture Technologies LLC, a group owner of five UPN stations. Clayton was named to replace Mike Conway, who is retiring.

George Schweitzer, senior vice president of promotion for CBS and UPN, told the board that the plan is to keep in place the current on-air look at UPN. "That's also a good thing," Hanna said. "I've seen it move around a little bit, but now, it will remain consistent going forward."

Hanna acknowledged that a lot of UPN affiliates were worried when CBS took over the network. But he said CBS executives have been very responsive to input from stations and there's a lot less worry than there used to be.

"The pieces are starting to fall into place. [Viacom Inc. chief operating officer Mel] Karmazin didn't buy this network to watch it lose money," he added. "If he makes money, I make money as an affiliate. In all of my time with the network, I am most comfortable now with where the network is and where it is going."

UPN's high-definition strategy isn't as far along as that of CBS, but there is some progress there. Two shows are currently in high definition -- Enterprise and Jake 2.0. Plans call for adding more shows. "I think you'll see them stage it in," Hanna said.

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