UPN pulls switch in Watertown

Sep 23, 2002  •  Post A Comment

UPN is changing affiliates in Watertown, N.Y.
The network has exercised an option and is moving programming under a secondary affiliate arrangement to Watertown Fox affiliate WNYF, a low-power station that is part of a duopoly owned by United Communications Corp., effective Monday night.
UPN gave 30 days’ notice of the switch to its affiliate of five years, WLOT, the low-power station owned and managed by Anthony DiMarco, who had been unable to get crucial cable carriage that would boost his station’s penetration of the market on the Canadian border until July, when he began buying time on the Time Warner Cable system that serves some 30,000 homes.
“We are very pleased with our new relationship with WNYF,” UPN said in a statement. “This is a great opportunity for us to make UPN’s programming accessible to more viewers who live in the Watertown area.”
Cathy M. Pircsuk is VP and general manager of the UCC duopoly made up of 48-year-old WWNY-TV, a CBS affiliate, and WNYF, the Fox affiliate that went on the air in April 2001 and was added last October to the area’s Time Warner Cable system. That gave low-power WNYF approximately 70 percent penetration of the market, which Nielsen Media Research lists as the 176th largest in the country.
UPN knew when it approached Ms. Pircsuk that the combination of such short notice and previous programming commitments would make it impossible for all of its programming to be carried on WNYF when the season starts.
Indeed, only four of the netlet’s dramas will be regularly scheduled on WNYF and then not until 1 a.m. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will air early Tuesday morning, “Enterprise” on Wednesday morning, “Haunted” on Thursday morning and “The Twilight Zone” on Friday morning.
Ms. Pircsuk said WNYF will use other programming, especially “Smackdown,” as weekend sports commitments allow and may program UPN movies as needed.
“Then as contractual obligations are over, we will move the programming into a more convenient time period,” she said.
The ideal schedule would have the UPN block following the 10 o’clock news, produced by sister station WWNY, on WNYF.
UPN has the right to seek additional secondary outlets for its programming but is not planning to do so, a spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, Mr. DiMarco plans to fill his two-hour weeknights hole with movies and other syndicated material and to “get heavy into the high school sports” of the area, which he described as an $8 million-a-year market.
Mr. DiMarco used WLOT’s local news show early last week to vent colorfully or crudely, depending on one’s point of reference, about personalities involved in the affiliation switch, sources said. Mr. DiMarco said he didn’t recall his comments because WLOT’s news is “off the cuff.”
“We give them the news. We give them the commentary. We give them the attitude,” he told Electronic Media last week.
However, by Wednesday, he was sounding more resigned. On the 5 p.m. news show, which is webcast, he said, “It has happened. It’s over. We don’t care.”