Scott D. Pierce: UPN makes early exit

Spurned KPNZ drops network's summer schedule

Published: Friday, June 23 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

UPN ceases operation in September, but it's already disappeared from the local airwaves.

KPNZ-Ch. 24, which has been the local affiliate since 2001, has dropped UPN before UPN could drop KPNZ. Instead of airing reruns of "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Veronica Mars" this summer, the station has gone to a lineup of movies and "Hawaii Five-O" reruns.

Apparently, a lot of you didn't notice. Or didn't care.

Judging by the e-mail — one that asked what happened to "Veronica Mars" and one that asked what happened to "Friday Night Smackdown!" — this hasn't upset a lot of local viewers.

Let's back up and recount how we arrived at this point:

• In January, CBS and Time Warner announced they would shut down UPN and The WB after years of losses. Beginning in September, what remains of the two networks will be combined and relaunched as The CW.

• The CW was announced with an initial lineup of 12 stations owned by CBS and 16 owned by Tribune Broadcasting (which gave up its minority interest in The WB in exchange for long-term-affiliation agreements with the new network). The two groups covered almost half the nation's viewers, leaving The CW to essentially pick-and-choose among UPN and WB affiliates in the rest of the country.

• In April, The CW signed an affiliation agreement with KUWB-Ch. 30, the current WB affiliate in Utah, which left KPNZ out in the cold.

Could Ch. 24 have continued to air UPN programming through the beginning of September, when the network shuts down? Sure.

But why should it?

Essentially, it would have been helping a competitor (Ch. 30) at its own expense. If you're a "Smackdown" fan, yes, you're going to miss 2 1/2 months worth of episodes. If, like the "Veronica Mars" fan who e-mailed me, you missed an episode and were desperate to see the rerun, you're going to have to buy Season 2 when it comes out on DVD.

But, having been left out in the cold by CBS and Time Warner, why should Ch. 24 provide a bridge for shows that will be transitioning from UPN to The CW this fall?

Commercial television is a business. (That's why they run commercials.) And Ch. 24 is under absolutely no obligation to help a competitor.

SPEAKING OF THE CW, here are some early impressions:

The new logo? Ugly and 30 years out-of-date.

And the promotional campaign? It's both stupid and amateurish.

Doesn't bode well, does it?

FOX ISN'T WAITING for fall to unveil its fall lineup. It isn't even waiting for September.

Which is no surprise. Fox carries baseball playoffs and the World Series, which knocks its regular schedule off for weeks in mid-fall. The network had more success last year starting shows early, giving them a chance to get established before the baseball-induced hiatus.

"Prison Break" and the new series "Vanished" are slated to premiere on Monday, Aug. 21; "Bones" and the new series "Justice" on Wednesday, Aug. 30; and the short-run (four-episode) talent show "Duets" on Thursday, Aug. 31. ("The O.C." won't be back until Thursday, Nov. 2 — after the World Series ends.)

The new series "Standoff" and "House" debut on Tuesday, Sept. 5; new sitcoms " 'Til Death" and "Happy Hour" on Thursday, Sept. 7; "Nanny 911" on Friday, Sept. 8; "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted" on Saturday, Sept. 9; and "The Simpsons," "American Dad," "Family Guy" and "The War at Home" on Sunday, Sept. 10.

The other networks haven't announced premiere dates yet, but most of their shows won't debut until after Fox is pretty much finished launching its fall schedule.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com