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Paramount, Chris-Craft forming fifth TV network

LOS ANGELES -- Paramount Communications Inc. and Chris-Craft Industries Inc. announced Tuesday the formation of the Paramount Network, a fifth broadcast television network to be launched in January 1995.

The new network will be jointly owned and operated by Paramount, which is in the midst of a takeover battle between Viacom Inc. and QVC Netowrk Inc., and Chris-Craft.

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The companies, which owns 15 TV stations between them, said the new network will initially present four hours of original programming over two nights, featuring the introduction of an hour-long series, 'Star Trek: Voyager.' They did not disclose the other programs that will be used.

The programming will be carried on the six independent stations owned by Chris-Craft and the four independent stations owned by Paramount. The companies said the 10 stations reach more than 27 percent of U.S. television households.

Paramount, which has approved a revised $10 billion acquisition by cable programming giant Viacom, said Viacom has approved the launch of the new network.

The move Paramount comes a day after Viacom launched a cash tender offer for 51 percent of its shares at $80 a share and a day before QVC launches a matching offer. Wall Street expects that Viacom will prevail among Paramount shareholders unless QVC sweetens its offer significantly -- perhaps to as much as $90 a share.

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Paramount and Viacom have been attempting to portray their planned merger as being more valuable than a Paramount merger with QVC, the nation's leading home-shopping network.

Paramount Chairman Martin S. Davis sounded that theme in the announcement of the fifth network, saying Viacom's board shares Paramount's enthusiasm for the venture with Chris-Craft.

'The Paramount Network will benefit substantially from the combination of Paramount's programming expertise with Viacom's outstanding capabilities in the television business, particularly in creating immensely popular networks,' Davis said.

The new network would be the first one to start up since Fox Inc. launched the now-established Fox network in 1986.

Reports emerged last month that Warner Bros. was quietly planning to launch a fifth network as early as next summer with between four and six hours of primetime programming.

Warner has offered no comment on the prospect of a fifth network, which is expected to be led by former Fox Broadcasting President Jamie Kellner.

Evan Thompson, president of Chris-Craft Broadcasting, said the new network would give independent stations distinctive, original programming to differentiate themselves from other independents and cable channels. 'By aligning themselves with the Paramount Network, the affiliated stations around the country will create a valuable franchise in their markets,' he said.

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The 'Star Trek' franchise has been a profit machine for Paramount, with six movies, reruns of the original show and two highly rated first- run syndicated shows currently on the air: 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' and 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.'

Paramount programs for the major networks and USA cable network include 'Wings,' 'Frasier,' 'Bob,' 'South of Sunset,' 'The Mommies,' 'John and Leeza,' 'Viper,' 'Sister Sister,' 'Duckman,' 'Itsy Bitsy Spider.'

Besides 'Star Trek,' syndicated shows include 'Entertainment Tonight,' 'The Untouchables,' 'The Arsenio Hall Show,' 'The Maury Povich Show,' and 'Hard Copy.'

Paramount's independent stations are WTXF in Philadelphia, WDCA in Washington, D.C., KTXA in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and KTXH in Houston. It also owns Fox affiliates WLFL in Raleigh/Durham, N.C., KRRT in San Antonio, Texas, and WKBD in Detroit.

Chris-Craft's independent stations include KCOP in Los Angeles, WWOR in New York, and KPTV in Portland, Ore. Its subsidiary United Television Inc. owns independent stations KMSP in Minneapolis, KBHK in San Francisco, and KUTP in Phoenix, as well as ABC affiliate KTVX in Salt Lake City and NBC affiliate KMOL in San Antonio.

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