UPN, The WB to Merge, Forming The CW Network

Jan 24, 2006  •  Post A Comment

CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced Tuesday that they are merging The WB Network and UPN to create a new network, to be called The CW.

The network, which will launch in September, will be owned jointly by Warner Bros. and CBS Corp., with each company owning a 50 percent stake in the network. Tribune Co., which had owned a stake in The WB, has signed a 10-year affiliation agreement with the new network, but won’t own a stake.

UPN President Dawn Ostroff will become president of entertainment of the new network, responsible for programming the network, while John Maatta, chief operating officer of The WB, will become COO of The CW and oversee finance, legal and advertising sales. Other staff appoints are to be announced later, and there is no word on whether WB Chairman Garth Ancier or WB President David Janollari will have a role at the new network.

Management of the joint venture will come from a four-person board made up equally of executives from CBS Corp. and Warner Bros., and plans call for CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group President Nancy Tellem to serve as CBS’s point person for the network, while Warner Bros. Television Group President Bruce Rosenblum will be his company’s point person.

Tribune’s 16 major-market stations and the 12 CBS-owned UPN stations will give The CW immediate coverage of 48 percent. The 16 Tribune-affiliated stations will include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Washington, Houston, Miami, Denver, St. Louis, Portland, Ore.; Indianapolis, San Diego, Hartford, Conn., New Orleans and Albany, N.Y.

The CBS-owned stations will include Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit, Tampa, Fla., Seattle, Sacramento, Calif., Pittsburgh, West Palm Beach, Fla., Norfolk,Va., Oklahoma City and Providence, R.I. Together, these top two station groups cover the top 13 television markets, 20 of the top 25 television markets and have a total coverage area of more than 48 percent of the country.

The remaining distribution will be a combination of selected UPN and WB affiliates that is expected to exceed 95 percent of the U.S.

On the programming side, The CW will program Monday through Friday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 7 to 10 p.m. Outside of prime time, the network will program Sunday from 5 to 7 p.m., a Monday-through-Friday afternoon block from 3 to 5 p.m. and a five-hour Saturday morning animation block. The lineup of shows will be announced later, the company said.

For Tribune’s part, the deal ends its ownership stake in The WB and allows Tribune to exit that particular business without any impact to its financial results. According to Tribune executives, in exchange for not demanding compensation for their 22 percent stake in The WB, Tribune won’t be on the hook for any of the shutdown costs associated with shuttering The WB.