WB adds hours on Sunday

Jan 28, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The WB is finally expanding-to early Sunday evening.
This, despite the fact that the network has the option in its affiliate contracts to add, next season, two hours on Saturday night-the only night of the week The WB doesn’t program.
“That was our original idea-to add Saturday night,” said WB President and Chief Operating Officer Jed Petrick. “But when we spoke to our partners at Tribune, because of their sports deals, they suggested we add the two hours on Sunday from 5 [p.m.] to 7 [p.m.], leading into our prime-time Sunday lineup.”
The WB will program the new two-hour block with existing network shows telecast earlier in the week. Advertising will be sold separately for both runs of the series, thus it won’t be a joint sell with cumed ratings. (This is in contrast to how The WB sells its Thursday-night drama “Charmed,” which is repurposed the following Tuesday on sibling cable network TNT. In that scheme, the sponsors run the same ads in both airings of the show.) Mr. Petrick
said the series that will be repeated in the new Sunday-evening block have yet to be determined.
“Saturday night’s very tough on TV,” said Andrew Donchin, director of national broadcast for media buyer Carat USA. “Some of the networks are talking about abandoning the night. So early Sunday evening is probably a better option for The WB. It’s possible that they could even get higher [costs per thousand] there than they would have on Saturday night.”
Mr. Petrick said that another reason The WB wanted to expand two hours was because there has been demand on Madison Avenue for the targeted audience The WB reaches.
Tribune, with a 25 percent stake in The WB, owns WB affiliates in eight of the top 10 markets and 13 of the top 20.
“With the sports we have on our stations, we can minimize pre-emptions if The WB adds 5 [p.m.]-to-7 [p.m.] Sunday instead,” said Patrick Mullen, president of Tribune Broadcasting. “It’s an innovative solution for both us and the network.”
In New York, Tribune’s WPIX-TV has been the home of baseball’s Mets, but that deal is up, and WPIX is in the midst of renewal talks. When asked if one of the reasons Tribune wanted the expansion of The WB on Sunday evening instead of Saturday night was because it anticipated a return of the Mets, Mr. Mullen declined to comment.
Mr. Petrick said that the more he and his WB colleagues mulled the idea of expanding to 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (ET/PT) Sunday, the more they liked it. “It’s generally a very male-oriented time period, mostly programmed with sports,” Mr. Petrick said, “so our young female-skewing shows are excellent counter-programming.”
Furthermore, Mr. Petrick said the new block should provide a strong lead-in to The WB’s regular Sunday-night lineup by attracting viewers not accustomed to seeing The WB early Sunday evening. Though Sunday night has the week’s greatest number of households using television, it is no secret that it is also one of the most competitive nights of the week-and one where The WB prime-time lineup has struggled.
Mr. Petrick said Acme Television has also agreed to the Sunday expansion. “We want to run in pattern, so we hope our other affiliates will also agree to the new Sunday times. Otherwise, they’ll run the shows Saturday night.” Acme’s CEO is Jamie Kellner, who ran The WB for many years and is currently chairman and CEO of AOL Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting System. The WB still falls under his jurisdiction.
Bruce Rosenblum, Warner Bros. Television Group executive VP, would not say if any of the six Warner Bros. shows on The WB would be chosen to be repeated in the new programming slot.
“What I will say is that, in principle, it would be a benefit for suppliers, as they could generate additional revenue for their programs,” he said. “Any talks we might have with The WB would be an arms-length negotiation.” He added that with regard to dramas, he is not concerned that additional airings on The WB would hurt any back-end sales later on.
The Tribune stations that air professional sports contests are WBDC-TV in Washington, KWGN-TV in Denver and Tribune’s flagship station, WGN-TV, in the nation’s No. 3 market, Chicago. WGN broadcasts Cubs, White Sox and Bulls contests. Those games are also seen nationwide because WGN is in 56 million homes via cable and satellite.