NEW UPN STATION TO DEBUT SEPT. 1

MARK McGUIRE Staff writer
Section: LIFE & LEISURE,  Page: D4

Date: Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The Labor Day debut of WNYA Ch. 51, the new Pittsfield, Mass., station that will air UPN prime-time programming, marks the end of cable-only station WEDG Ch. 4. WEDG, a joint venture between Clear Channel Communications and Time Warner Cable, will cease operating at midnight on Sunday. WNYA will take over at 7 a.m. Monday.


The UPN station will broadcast over-the-air on Channel 51 from Pittsfield, with a simulcast in the Capital Region on Ch. 15. On Time Warner Cable, WNYA will air on Ch. 4 (Ch. 8 in Pittsfield). The station will be marketed as ``UPN Capital Region.''


``We are very excited to be bringing UPN programming as well as other programming back over the air for people who don't have cable,'' WNYA Station Manager Duncan Brown said.


Time Warner and WXXA Ch. 23 -- the Clear Channel station that programmed WEDG since its inception in January 2000 -- gave serious consideration as late as this summer to continuing operation as an independent station. But WXXA General Manager J. Jeffrey Whitson said the numbers didn't work. Whitson cited the ``escalating cost of programming -- and you really need to have distinctive programming to set the channel (apart), plus a soft business environment.''


``It was an awful lot of work for not a whole lot of money,'' he added.


A Time Warner spokesman said the company wanted to continue the partnership, but WXXA/WEDG said it could not work.


WXXA, which airs Fox national programming, will pick up the one New York Yankees game left on the WEDG schedule. WXXA could face a dilemma next year, when some of the 20 games in its Yankees television package conflict with profitable Fox shows.


In addition to UPN shows like ``Enterprise'' and WWE ``Smackdown,'' WNYA will air syndicated fare such as ``M*A*S*H,'' ``Becker,'' ``Married ... with Children,'' ``Cops,'' ``Divorce Court'' and ``Judge Hatchett.''


Brown said syndicated programming is difficult to come by for a new station.


``Quite frankly, these (syndication) deals are done several years in advance,'' he said. ``You have to take what's available at the time. We will build on this.''


The station will get a boost on its first day from yet another network: WNYA will broadcast CBS Sports' live coverage of U.S. Open Tennis from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The tournament is being bumped from WRGB Ch. 6 because of the Jerry Lewis-Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon.