Fox Readying ‘Alternative Program Service’ for Fall Launch

Feb 9, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Fox Television Stations is weeks away from announcing the launch of “an alternative national program service” this fall, according to a memo, obtained Thursday by TelevisionWeek, from Fox Television Stations President Jack Abernethy to the general managers of nine Fox-owned stations that will lose their UPN affiliation with the launch of The CW this fall.

“This week we have had several meetings with the top television management and the best minds at News Corp. and we will have an announcement in the next few weeks,” Mr. Abernethy said in the memo. He said the new program service “will be more flexible, offer better marketing and branding opportunities and be more station friendly” than The CW, which plans to charge stations to carry its prime-time lineup, in addition to requiring affiliates to carry a network-determined programming block 3-5 p.m. weekdays plus five hours of kids programming on Saturday mornings.

With 10-year affiliation agreements guaranteed to CBS-owned and Tribune Broadcasting-owned stations, Fox-owned UPN affiliates in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington will be on their own.

As for the handful of other Fox-owned, UPN-affiliated stations, CW affiliation “certainly makes no sense,” Mr. Abernethy said in the memo. “Handing over 30 hours of valuable time, receiving little inventory to sell and being asked to pay comp makes no sense for our TV stations. This would ensure losses, less growth opportunities and continue station brand confusion in this competitive media landscape.

“We are talking to the best syndicators and production people from around the world who are excited about producing first-run strip shows and bringing fresh and new ideas to broadcast prime time. We are looking at production models and show concepts that are consistent with the digital challenges we face rather than the $2 million an episode model which hasn’t worked after 10 years,” Mr. Abernethy continued. “Asking more from stations will not fix the long-term problems with that concept.”