FOX STATIONS BEGIN TO LINE UP PROGRAMMING

In Wake of UPN/WB Merger, Looking to Syndication to Fill Schedule

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Fox Television stations have begun to outline its plans to replace UPN station programming with its own nationally distributed shows, most likely from syndication unit Twentieth Television and other outside producers.
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The Fox Station Group’s UPN affiliation in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington will be lost as a result of the Viacom weblet’s merger with Time Warner's WB to form CW.

'No sense' to sign with CW
Station Group President Jack Abernethy sent a memo Feb. 8, obtained by Advertising Age, to station general managers. Mr. Abernethy wrote: “It makes no sense for our four UPN stations to sign with the CW. Handing over 30 hours of valuable time, receiving little inventory to sell and being asked to pay compensation, makes no sense for our TV stations. This would ensure continuing losses, less growth opportunities and continue station brand confusion in this competitive media landscape.”

Mr. Abernethy said News Corp. would firm up its plans over the next few weeks. His intention seems to be to draw shows from syndication companies to produce first-run series during broadcast's prime time.

“We will be providing an alternative national program service this fall which will be more flexible, offer better marketing and branding opportunities and be more station friendly.” He said the company is "looking at production models and show concepts that are consistent with the digital challenges we face. Rather than the $2 million an episode model which hasn’t worked after ten years.”

Telenovela 'Desire'
A spokesman for the Syndicated Network Television Association said the group did not have a comment until it had digested the news. Twentieth Television's upcoming English-language "telenovela" (or soap opera) "Desire" is under consideration, according to one executive close to the company. Local Fox stations will get some time to sell, as they usually do, but the ad sales into syndicated shows will be handled by the companies behind them.

Twentieth Television executives had no comment.

Separately, media buyers said they are interested to hear about programming plans for the CW at the network development meetings, which begin March 13. CBS Corp. and Time Warner each own half of the CW.

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