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Moonves planning makeover for UPN

Dec 17, 2001  •  Post A Comment

CBS Television President and CEO Leslie Moonves added UPN to his domain last week, and he’s expected to dramatically reshuffle the management and operational decks to turn around the red-ink-laden network.
The change in oversight, set to take effect Jan. 1, will lead to the consolidation of ad sales for UPN under the CBS banner and eliminate other operational redundancies at the younger network. Mr. Moonves’ new role also brought the resignation of Paramount Television Group Chairman Kerry McCluggage, who had overseen UPN’s formation and birth since 1994.
“Clearly, [Viacom President and COO] Mel [Karmazin] felt it was important to do this now on UPN and simultaneously extend the carrot to [Viacom Chairman and CEO] Sumner [Redstone] in allowing Jonathan [Dolgen, chairman of Viacom Entertainment Group] to maintain autonomous control over Paramount Television Group,” said a Viacom executive who requested anonymity. “Sumner had done an interview earlier this year with the Los Angeles Times, saying he was pretty emphatic about not moving [UPN], so anyone could read between the lines about the kind of tug-of-war going on corporately here lately.”
Sources within Paramount Television Group said with Mr. McCluggage’s losing oversight of UPN, which would have been in breach of his previous contract, he felt it was time to move on. “UPN was really Kerry’s baby, and losing it represented a loss of power, so it left him no choice but to step out now,” said a Paramount insider. “It’s kind of sad, because UPN has been in somewhat of turnaround mode over last 18 months to two years.”
Indeed, UPN has seen its fortunes rise this season, with its ratings in adults 18 to 34 (2.2 rating/6 share) and adults 18 to 49 (2.1/5) moving up 16 percent and 17 percent year to year, respectively. CBS is the only other network experiencing dramatic young-demo growth, with its adults 18 to 34 (3.0/9) and adults 18 to 49 (3.8/10) numbers up 15 percent and 8 percent, respectively, over year-ago levels. For those reasons, ad buying sources said it is as good a time as any for CBS and UPN to merge their national advertising sales as potentially complementary young-demographic plays in the market.
“Melding the two [networks’ sales operations] makes sense, because it gives CBS wider [demographic] targets of opportunity, deepens UPN’s [national] coverage and consolidates certain back-office functions,” said Aaron Cohen, executive VP of national broadcast buying for Horizon Media. “UPN has been doing better in [fourth-quarter] scatter, but if you take their 10 hours and put it together with CBS’s 22 hours of prime time, there might be some calls from buyers they didn’t get before.”
According to other ad-buying sources, Mr. Karmazin has had more frequent contacts and meetings with UPN’s head of ad sales, Mike Mandelker, to keep tabs on current sales and projections for the upcoming first- and second-quarter scatter markets. Various sources inside and outside CBS said it is likely Mr. Mandelker will end up with a senior-level sales position within the CBS sales umbrella, which is overseen by Joe Abruzzese, president of sales for CBS.
With the transfer of UPN to CBS control not taking effect until Jan. 1, sources think Mr. Karmazin and Mr. Moonves will be casting a net inside and outside in shuffling the management deck at UPN. Sources believe Viacom-CBS will try to settle current UPN Chairman and CEO Dean Valentine’s embarrassing breach-of-contract lawsuit against the network, then install their own handpicked successor. Sources said it is likely CBS will keep UPN’s affiliate relations department intact, which could affect whether contracts are renewed for UPN Chief Operating Officer Adam Ware and Executive VP of Affiliate Relations Steve Carlston-both of whose contracts are up early next year.
Mr. Dolgen is said to be similarly looking to streamline the management-heavy Paramount Television Group. Sources said it is possible Mr. Dolgen may take a more direct role in the activities of the group and parcel out Mr. McCluggage’s chairmanship duties between current divisional heads such as Joel Berman, president of the Paramount Domestic TV Group; Gary Hart, president of Paramount Network TV and international co-production; and John Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television (syndication).
And speculation still persists that Greg Meidel, president of programming for Paramount Domestic Television, is being considered for the top positions at either Paramount Television Group or UPN. Other names being floated in industry circles for both the UPN and Paramount jobs have included Eric Tannenbaum, who most recently left the now-defunct Artists Television Group and served as president of Columbia TriStar Television; and Bob Sanitsky, who previously served as head of Worldwide TV for talent agency International Creative Management and as president of PolyGram Television (now part of Universal).
Spokespeople for CBS, Viacom, Paramount and UPN said senior management declined to comment on speculated management moves at the four entities.