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News Corp. Wants Chris-Craft to Extend Deadline for UPN Alliance

November 16, 2000|From Bloomberg News

News Corp., owner of the Fox Television Network, will recommend that U.S. TV station group Chris-Craft Industries Inc. extend an affiliation with Viacom Inc.'s UPN network, Chairman Rupert Murdoch said Wednesday.

The fate of UPN has been unclear since August, when News Corp. agreed to buy Chris-Craft and two subsidiaries for about $5.35 billion. Chris-Craft owns eight stations in major markets that air UPN programming. The affiliation agreement between Chris-Craft and UPN expires Jan. 1.

Industry analysts and executives have speculated that Viacom could shut down the money-losing UPN, especially if News Corp. decides to end the UPN affiliation in favor of its own Fox network programming. Murdoch said News Corp. will ask Chris-Craft to extend the Jan. 1 deadline. He declined to elaborate.

Murdoch also said News Corp., through its U.S. Fox Entertainment Group Inc. unit, might be open to a joint ownership of UPN with Viacom. He declined to elaborate on continuing talks between Fox and Viacom about the UPN-affiliated stations.

Viacom declined to comment.

Murdoch, who made his comments during and after Fox Entertainment's annual shareholders meeting in New York, said he expects the Chris-Craft acquisition to be completed by June 30. He also said Fox hasn't determined yet which TV stations it will sell in order to comply with federal regulations.

Federal Communications Commission rules limit a company to owning TV stations that reach 35% of U.S. homes. New York-based Chris-Craft, which will be housed within News Corp.'s Fox unit, will put Fox over the 35% limit. Fox now owns about 23 U.S. TV stations. Murdoch, who is chief executive of both News Corp. and Fox, declined to comment on regulatory issues surrounding the Chris-Craft purchase.

In a statement Wednesday, Sydney-based News Corp. and Chris-Craft said they have been asked by the U.S. Department of Justice for additional information on the acquisition. The companies said they don't expect the request to delay the transaction.

Fox shares fell 56 cents to close at $18.25; News Corp. American depositary shares, each representing four ordinary shares, dropped $1.88 to close at $37.25; and Chris-Craft fell $1.06 to close at $69.31. All shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

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