To take this one step further, is CBS looking at the NBC/PAX relationship?
NBC owns 35% of PAX. As an independent, PAX exists largely as a pipe for repurposed programming. (Isn't this just a new name for syndicated reruns?) CBS has gone to the trouble of giving its primetime shows the high definition treatment. Yet, other than reruns between sweeps periods, CBS has no place for these HD versions of their shows to be aired in HD.
If Viacom HDTV-enables their UPN stations, they can then present that CBS product once again in full HDTV glory, recouping some of the additional expense. HDTV-hungry viewers have another source for, if nothing else, a chance to catch an episode of CSI they previously missed or would like to see again. New viewers sampling the UPN station may then tune in to CBS to view the newest episodes.
Since I anticipate a shrinking independent station market in the wake of this digital transition, seems a natural move to me. Plus, they can groom employees at UPN stations and then send them across the street, so to speak, to their CBS affiliate.
Lot of positives to be found, along with your concerns which I fully understand.
Life's a roller coaster. Wear a seatbelt and don't stand up on the hills...