UPN to Name New President, CEO Today
Ending a three-month search, UPN today will name Dean Valentine, formerly head of television at Walt Disney Co., to replace Lucie Salhany as its president and chief executive.
Industry sources say Valentine’s creative background could help UPN shore up its weakness in programming and may well signal a new emphasis at the network. Whereas Salhany is credited with using her understanding of television station operation to build a strong affiliate base, Valentine brings programming breadth but no station and little network experience.
Valentine, an eight-year veteran of Disney, oversaw development of such hits as “Home Improvement” and “Ellen.” He was also in charge of Disney’s television animation unit, which produces ABC’s Saturday morning children’s slate.
UPN’s 50-50 partners, Viacom Inc. and Chris-Craft Industries, have been searching for a top executive since May, when Salhany resigned to reunite her family in Boston this fall.
The protracted search has undermined the network within the creative community, with some Hollywood agents reluctant to pitch new projects to it.
The delay also called into question the effectiveness of the partnership structure. Over several months, the partners had been unable to agree on a candidate, with Viacom, which owns the Paramount Pictures studio, pushing for a creative executive and Chris-Craft, which runs a large station group, holding out for someone with station experience.
Sources say the stalemate was broken when Chris-Craft brought Valentine into the discussions.
Valentine will face major challenges in establishing UPN as the profitable fifth broadcast network against its rival, WB, which is considered by many in Hollywood to have a leg up in programming, management and marketing.
Both networks were launched in January 1995 and will lose hundreds of millions of dollars before they turn a profit.
UPN has been unable to capitalize on its distribution advantage because few of its programs stand out. That disparity cost them a key ally last month when the Sinclair Broadcast Group agreed to switch affiliations of five of its nine stations to WB.
While many applaud the choice of Valentine, critics say his abrasive style has alienated some television producers and writers. That could make it difficult for UPN to attract the talent needed to drive up ratings. Said one: “At UPN, you are not a buyer, you are a beggar.”