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Gray to Stay the Course

Jan 30, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Gray Television’s efforts to leverage its digital platform by launching digital UPN affiliates aren’t likely to change much with the creation of The CW Television Network, as the station group expects to carry the new network in many of its markets, said Gray President Robert Prather.

Of new CW affiliations in markets where Gray currently runs a digital UPN affiliate, “We think we will get every one of them,” Mr. Prather said. “They’ve been very successful.”

Gray currently operates eight digital channels, seven of which are UPN affiliates. The eighth is a Fox affiliate. Mr. Prather said the company is on deck to launch 14 more digital channels, many of which are planned to be UPN affiliates.

All but two of Gray’s UPN digital affiliates are in markets without a WB affiliate, which Mr. Prather believes boosts Gray’s chances of walking away with The CW affiliation in those markets. It also helps that Gray is viewed in the marketplace as having a good working relationship with UPN parent CBS Corp., particularly given that Gray owns 17 CBS affiliates.

Gray began playing in the digital space in the fall of 2004, lured by the opportunity to create duopolies in the markets where Gray already owns an over-the-air station.

Mr. Prather has said that there is significant potential for the digital stations to generate profit margins that mirror those of Gray’s over-the-air stations, using a programming strategy that augments UPN’s schedule with sports content, specials and repurposed syndicated fare.