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CBS President Says He's Eyeing Strategy for UPN

Media: Leslie Moonves, who will run both networks, says it's too early to give specific details of restructuring.

January 11, 2002|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In his first news conference since gaining oversight of the UPN television network, CBS Television President and Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said Thursday that he has no immediate strategies for the unprofitable network.

"I only want to say that I literally met with the staff for the first time on Friday," Moonves told TV critics and reporters in Pasadena, adding that he was engaged in a fact-finding mission on how the two networks, both owned by Viacom Inc., would work together.

A major executive restructuring is expected at UPN, including the anticipated departure of President Dean Valentine. Valentine is not scheduled to meet formally with reporters Monday, when the network previews its midseason schedule.

While noting that UPN has what he called "great building blocks" with series such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Moonves said it was "way too early" to determine how the synergy would work, adding that the combination "would be beneficial for both CBS and UPN."

He said, for example, that UPN might carry some games during the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament, which previously has aired exclusively on CBS.

In an effort to cut costs and increase advertising revenue at UPN, Viacom announced in December that it would combine CBS and UPN under one management team headed by Moonves effective Jan. 1--a decision that prompted the resignation of Paramount Television Group Chairman Kerry McCluggage, who had been responsible for UPN.

By merging the two networks, Viacom hopes to save around $10 million annually in advertising, programming and promotion, analysts say. The company should be able to boost revenue by packaging UPN and CBS commercial time for advertisers.

In other CBS news, Moonves said the fourth edition of the unscripted series "Survivor" would premiere Feb. 28, the night after CBS broadcasts the 44th annual Grammy Awards. The finale of the third installment aired Thursday.

Although less media attention has been focused on the third edition of "Survivor," Moonves said the network is pleased with the show, which, despite a ratings decline compared with last year's second version, ranks as the fifth-most-watched series of the season.

"Survivor: Marquesas" is being shot on the island of Nuku Hiva, a distant neighbor of Tahiti.

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