UPN pulling a switch

Sep 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

As the 2002-2003 TV season rolls out, UPN programming is not an option for viewers in Chattanooga, Tenn., because the netlet is in the middle of an affiliate transition in the market.
WDSI-TV, the Pegasus-owned Fox affiliate in Chattanooga, was a secondary affiliate of UPN for about a year and a half, offering pieces of the UPN lineup in the 11 p.m. to midnight block, an arrangement that ended at the end of August.
UPN programming is scheduled to begin appearing in mid-October on WOOT-TV, a low-power station owned by Miramar, Fla.-based Tiger Eye Broadcasting. WOOT, whose appearance on the scene has been little noticed by local broadcasters, is working to boost its signal with a new strategically located tower.
“The equipment is coming in even as we speak,” said John Kyle, president of 6-year-old Tiger Eye, which owns and operates television stations, licenses and construction permits in 50 markets. Tiger Eye’s affiliations range from Pax and UPN to Shop America and Home Shopping Network’s America’s Store in different markets. In Chattanooga, WOOT, which has been off the air for upgrades for much of the summer, has carried largely shopping programming.
Located in a valley along the Tennessee-Georgia border, Chattanooga’s geography is a challenge for over-the-air signals, local broadcasters said. Carriage on the local Comcast and Charter cable systems makes a station available in more than 90 percent of the market’s 351,160 TV homes. (Mr. Kyle said talks about cable carriage have begun.) When the new transmitter and antenna are up and running in a new mountaintop location, WOOT expects to be able to reach 160,000 homes with its over-the-air signal. Chattanooga is the 85th-largest market in the country, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Both WDSI and UPN say it was their decision not to continue the relationship.
WDSI General Manager Mike Costa said he informed a UPN representative during a meeting in July at the station that he planned to drop the programming. Mr. Costa had been running comedies from UPN’s Monday lineup in late-night on Mondays and Tuesdays. He also had run “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Enterprise.”
Mr. Costa said his was “purely a money decision.”
“We did what we thought was best for the station. We go from 10 avails a night to 30 a night,” said Mr. Costa, who is airing “Friends” and “Frasier” at 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., respectively, leading out of his 10 p.m. newscast, the only one in the market.
UPN officials declined to comment.
On Sept. 1, WDSI launched “SportZone,” a live, locally produced all-sports wrap-up that airs at 10:30 p.m. Sundays, following the half-hour weekend news. Mr. Costa said it has been “wildly successful from a sales standpoint.” Ratings won’t be available until after the diaries from the November sweeps come in.