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The United Paramount Network will start up on January 18 with a schedule of five programs over two nights. United Paramount President Lucille Salhany announced that the new network, "in a race with the Warner studio to become the fifth broadcast network," has signed up stations to reach about 65% of the country. But 21 of the 72 stations announced as part of the network "are to be secondary affiliates, meaning they will broadcast only some of the United Paramount" shows because they have other affiliation responsibilities. United Paramount plans to add other nights in coming years (Bill Carter, N.Y. TIMES, 10/6). Kerry McCluggage, Chair of Paramount's TV division: "The other networks tend to program for women, so we're counterprogramming for young men." The network will kickoff with a Star Trek spinoff, "a sure fire male favorite," and the other shows will be male oriented action and comedy (Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY, 10/6). TIME WARNER TALKS WITH NBC SLOW DOWN: Time Warner's negotiations to acquire a stake in GE's NBC unit "have been halted after the two sides couldn't agree on the price and other terms." A source close to Time Warner said talks are "stalled"; no other sessions are scheduled." One senior exec at GE said Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin had "balked at the terms" proposed by GE (Johnnie Roberts, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/6). PaineWebber is involved in "preliminary" discussions to buy the brokerage operations of GE unit Kidder, Peabody, & Co. Analysts call the sale a "long shot" (Michael Siconolfi, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/6). AFFILIATES COSTLY TO THE BIG THREE: NBC, CBS, and ABC will "collectively lose between $150M-$250M in annual earnings" to keep their affils from switching to Fox or among each other. Chris Dixon, media analyst for PaineWebber, says that "underestimating the growing impact of costs factors like the increased price of maintaining a strong affiliate base and producing more programs" in-house could be a costly mistake for any network buyer (Diane Mermigas, ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 10/3 issue).
FROM THE LATEST ISSUE OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA: Viacom is expected to announce the "sale of its 1.1 million-subscriber cable systems to a minority affiliate of TCI, InterMedia Association for what could be more than $2B in cash." The deal includes the development of a new pay movie service by combining TCI's Encore with Viacom's Showtime and Movie Channel. Also, Fox "plans to launch a second cable network, "fXM: Movies From Fox," as part of an effort to expand the company's presence in cable TV. The 24-hour commercial free network will use only Twentieth Century Fox films, and launch October 31....Home Team Sports of Bethesda, MD, raised more than $135,000 during it's second annual Sports-a-Thon, a three hour live telethon and sports memorabilia auction to benefit the Leukemia Society....ESPN is commemorating its 15th anniversary with a special glass-topped stainless steel time capsule doubling as a coffee table in the company's lobby (ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 10/3). FROM THE LATEST ISSUE OF MULTICHANNEL NEWS: Pay-per-view event distributors and cable operators are searching for a mega- heavyweight PPV boxing event after the recent loss by Lennox Lewis killed a potential multimillion dollar spring '95 bout. Mark Taffet, Senior VP of TVKO, who would have distributed the fight: "For the time being the big loser is the PPV industry....The momentum towards a national horse racing channel has slowed, but "a few individual tracks are taking modest-steps toward in-home wagering" in ways that could create new revenue for cable operators. In New York, Cablevision Systems Corp. is looking at starting a 90-day trial of "presenting live video feeds of racing cards in its systems homes in Long Island and parts of New York city this winter" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 10/3 issue). ALSO: Prime Network announced yesterday that it will provide closed captioning on all remaining live telecasts in its 1994 college football package (THE DAILY).
Regional sports networks, already struggling due to the loss of a significant amount of baseball games and ad revenues, are bracing themselves for more programming losses if the hockey postponement is prolonged. Many regional broadcast and cable execs, having exhausted a significant amount of inventory to cover canceled baseball telecasts, said they have not considered what replacement programming they will use if regular season games are lost. In a best-case scenario, the NHL has proposed playing a full schedule beginning October 15 and lasting into July. But MSG Network President Douglas Moss said even that "could complicate network programming and advertising efforts by putting NHL games in direct competition with the Knicks and Yankees" (Thomas Umstead, MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 10/3 issue). John Claiborne, GM of New England Sports Network which carries the Bruins and the Red Sox, said that the work stoppages have had a "negative impact" on programming: "There's no question we've lost subscribers -- more than a reasonable amount" (Jim Baker, BOSTON HERALD, 10/5). ESPN GOES TO SCHOOL: Bruce McLeod, commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, said he has been contacted by ESPN about the possibility of broadcasting some WCHA games to fill spots intended for the NHL (John Gilbert, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 10/5).
Top Viacom execs were in Ft. Lauderdale yesterday visiting the headquarters of the company's latest acquisition -- Blockbuster Entertainment. Viacom Chair Sumner Redstone and President Frank Biondi were briefed on Blockbuster operations during a meeting that lasted much of the day. "No word on whether the executives discussed Blockbuster Park, however." Viacom has not said whether it wants to build the 3,000-acre theme park, although Blockbuster is moving forward with plans. Blockbuster has applied for approval to build the park (MIAMI HERALD, 10/6).