CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The storm clouds circling UPN as it enters the 2003-04 season appear to be clearing up as the network announced today it has signed a new multi-year affiliation agreement covering all nine Fox-owned UPN affiliates. The agreement, which is retroactive to September 1, includes stations in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The news marks a major triumph for the future of the Viacom-owned/CBS-run network. "We are very pleased to extend our partnership with Fox in these major markets," said CBS topper Leslie Moonves in a statement. "These Fox stations are an outstanding group and a very important part of the UPN affiliate family. We are excited and enthusiastic about UPN's future, and a key component of that future is this extension of our affiliation agreements with these Fox stations. We look forward to working with Mitch Stern and his Fox Television Stations colleagues to grow our business together."
The nine stations, WWOR-TV New York, KCOP-TV Los Angeles, WPWR-TV Chicago, WDCA-TV Washington, DC, KTXH-TV Houston, WFTC-TV Minneapolis, KUTP-TV Phoenix, WRBW-TV Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne and WUTB-TV Baltimore, reach 24% of all U.S. TV households. Should UPN's previous contracts have expired, as they were set to do next summer, the netlet would literally have been without a third of its bandwidth. Such a scenario, along with news that the Fox Stations Group was unhappy with its UPN partnership (read the story), fueled speculation UPN wouldn't last beyond the 2003-04 season.
Nevertheless despite such doom and gloom, the reups mean UPN will be around for several years to come. Details about the pact were not disclosed but insiders say it's for at least three years. The Fox Stations Group appears to be happy as well as its CEO Mitchell Stern told the press, "This new agreement extending our UPN affiliations is a perfect fit with our business and operational plans, especially since in eight of these nine markets we have duopolies. It means that UPN programming will be available to our audiences and our advertisers during the 2003-04 season and in the years ahead, providing valuable continuity and stability. We appreciate Leslie's leadership of UPN and welcome the opportunity to build on the equity of this new agreement in each of our markets."