Kiro Joins Paramount Network

KIRO-TV (Channel 7) has decided to hitch its wagon to a rising "Star Trek."

KIRO said yesterday it is joining the new United Paramount Network, an offspring of the studio that launched the "Star Trek" movies and TV series. KIRO is losing its CBS affiliation to KSTW (Channel 11).

KIRO is the 95th station to join United Paramount Network, which debuts Jan. 16 with a special two-hour episode of "Star Trek: Voyager," the much-anticipated successor to "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

UPN is jointly operated by BHC Communications, a subsidiary of Chris-Craft Industries, and the Paramount Television Group, a unit of Viacom. The new network says it will cover 78 percent of U.S. households.

Glenn Wright, KIRO's executive vice president and general manager, said KIRO already has a good relationship with the management of UPN through its syndicated programs, such as "Entertainment Tonight," "Hard Copy," "Maury Povich," "Jon Stewart" and "The New Price is Right" - programs KIRO already carries.

"We think it's a perfect fit," Wright said.

The switch won't completely fill the holes in KIRO's schedule, however.

UPN will only offer four hours a week of prime-time programs during its first year.

Wright said his station has not decided many specifics of its programming nor its staffing levels for next year. KIRO may move its late news to 10 p.m. or run one news program at 10 p.m. and another at 11 p.m., he said.

But some decisions have been made.

For daytime, KIRO plans to expand its talk programming, Wright said, with "Jenny Jones" and "Ricki Lake" coming next fall. The station has also signed up two new talk shows, "Tempest Bledsoe" and "Carni Wilson."

KIRO may expand its morning news offerings by offering a local news and talk version of NBC's "Today" show, Wright said.

For nighttime, KIRO will fill the holes in UPN's lineup with movies and dramas, he said.

"There are some shows in syndication that do very well," he said. Since the station will pick up syndicated reruns of "Seinfeld," it could run that program at 10 p.m. to counter a major network's offering, he said.

Wright also said the station is now looking at expanding news staff, since news will be the foundation of the new KIRO.

At competing KOMO (Channel 4) and KING (Channel 5), there was praise for United Paramount as a credible entrant into the fiercely competitive network business. But at least for a few years, UPN is not viewed as a threat. UPN doesn't plan to offer five nights of programming until 1998, though KIRO thinks the network may move up that schedule.

KOMO Vice President and General Manager Dick Warsinske said Paramount was a good organization but said it would be at least two years before it becomes a substantial force in the market.

"This is going to be a slow build for them," said Warsinske.

UPN will also debut several programs created with people already experienced with hit television shows: "Platypus Man," a situation comedy from producers of "Golden Girls"; "Pig Sty," an ensemble comedy from the producers of "Cheers"; "Marker," an hourlong drama from the creator of "The Rockford Files"; and "The Watcher," an anthology series set in Las Vegas from the producer of "The Untouchables."

UPN will also offer one hour of children's programming on weekends by next fall.

KIRO is also considering affiliation with another new network, WB Network.

KIRO will continue airing CBS programs until its affiliation ends March 16. In the interim, KIRO will shuffle the UPN shows around CBS programs, Wright said.