The Expanding Network Universe -- CBS' Move From Kiro To Kstw Is Just Part Of The Channel-Changing That's Shaking Up Seattle's TV

Long ago and far away, it was easy to sample prime-time programs and find your favorites.

There were only three networks. Their identities were inseparable from the local stations that carried them. And no matter where you lived, there were few distractions from the triumvirate, except maybe for a funky educational channel in town, or maybe a rag-tag independent station that was the flagship for "The Three Stooges."

Today, network television is cosmologically confounding. Affiliation switches at local stations around the country have thrown viewers for a loop. And, as of this week, there are now six networks for broadcast stations - twice the universe of just a decade ago.

Joining ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are the United Paramount Network (UPN), which sports the new "Star Trek: Voyager" series, and the WB Television Network (WB), which has less-prominent comedy shows propelling its launch.

In simplest terms, UPN will be on KIRO-TV (Channel 7) and WB will be on KTZZ-TV (Channel 22).

One of the new networks has its debut tonight. Four comedy programs from WB, owned by Time Warner Inc., will be seen on KTZZ every Sunday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. For the time being, anyway.

Tomorrow night, the United Paramount Network will be launched on KIRO. UPN will offer two nights a week of programs. It's a joint venture of Viacom Inc., the programming and cable colossus, and BHC Communications Inc., a subsidiary of the Chris-Craft Industries' TV-station chain.

Two forces drove the creation of the new networks: Their parent companies, both multimedia conglomerates, needed new outlets for programming. And local stations nationwide, most of them unaffiliated until now, needed good, nationally prominent shows to compete with other broadcast stations and with the recent proliferation of cable channels.


The addition of two networks to the mix is easy enough to comprehend. But the network landscape in Seattle becomes pretty misty when you throw in the imminent move of CBS from KIRO to KSTW-TV (Channel 11).

Moreover, here in the nation's 12th-biggest TV market, an important one, the fledgling networks' programs won't be seen in sync with their national schedules for months to come.

UPN's modest initial lineup is intended for broadcast on Monday and Tuesday nights.

But because KIRO is still a CBS affiliate until March 16, it won't carry UPN programming during prime time until the CBS switch - except for tomorrow night's two-hour premiere of UPN's "Voyager" series. (KIRO is pre-empting CBS's "The Nanny," "Dave's World," "Murphy Brown" and "Cybill." Those shows will be broadcast next weekend in various time slots.)

After tomorrow night's "Voyager" kickoff, however, KIRO will air UPN shows on weekend afternoons. When CBS leaves Channel 7 for Channel 11 in March, UPN programs will be seen in their regular prime-time slots on Mondays and Tuesdays.

If that weren't confusing enough, those temporary air times for UPN programs will vary each weekend for the next couple of months. The reasons are complicated, but they have to do with juggling both the CBS lineup and the new UPN shows.

Said Maria Margaris, director of program operations at KIRO-TV: "It's pretty crazy, and it's pretty difficult to promote."

KTZZ's arrangement to carry WB is also a little ad-hoc.

WB's one-night-a-week lineup is intended for Wednesdays, but KTZZ has commitments to carry talk shows on weeknights until

September. So WB shows will be seen on Sunday nights until then. WB also plans to expand its program offerings by fall, so when KTZZ's talk-show commitments run out, the station's weeknight schedule likely will change considerably.


Got that? Yes, this is a perfect example of entropy at work, or maybe chaos theory. But partial stability will return to this portion of the galaxy in the spring. Here's how things stand in Seattle-Tacoma:

-- KOMO-TV (Channel 4) remains the ABC affiliate.

-- KING-TV (Channel 5) continues as the NBC station.

-- KIRO-TV (Channel 7) is the CBS affiliate for two more months. But tomorrow it becomes a United Paramount Network affiliate for the interim and beyond, and it will juggle the five shows from UPN with the CBS lineup until March 16.

Almost all CBS programming will air at its usual time between now and March 16, when it will switch to KSTW-TV (Channel 11). But some CBS programming already is being seen on Channel 11. (See KSTW.)

-- KCTS-TV (Channel 9) and KBTC-TV in Tacoma (Channel 28) are PBS channels, as always.

-- KSTW-TV (Channel 11) is independent for now, but becomes the CBS affiliate on March 16. But it's already airing some CBS shows: "The Bold and the Beautiful," a soap opera KIRO didn't carry, and all of the NCAA basketball games from now through to the Final Four playoffs. KIRO let KSTW have those basketball games to make room for UPN shows on the weekends and to lend some continuity to an important sporting event - basketball fans won't have to switch stations in midstream.

-- KCPQ-TV (Channel 13) remains loyal to the Fox Broadcasting Co., the "Beverly Hills, 90210" ZIP code and earlier syndicated "Star Trek" spinoffs "The Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine."

-- KTZZ-TV (Channel 22), until now an independent station known for its weeknight talk-show lineup, tonight begins the transition to more traditional entertainment programming when it becomes an affiliate of the WB Television Network, with that network's programming every Sunday night.