On Target

Nov 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

While The CW continues to take knocks in the media for its unremarkable ratings, CW affiliates have reason to be thankful this holiday: increased advertising revenues.

Station owners are reporting boosted revenues in prime time so far this fall compared with last season, partly due to decreased competition in the marketplace.

“There’s one less network out there, but you still have the same amount of dollars chasing network prime,” said John Hendricks, VP of sales for Tribune, which is the core launching station group for The CW and which was part owner of its predecessor The WB. “Our revenue on our CW stations is up considerably versus last year.”

Earlier this year UPN and The WB combined to form The CW. The new network’s owners, Warner Bros. and CBS Corp., assured stations The CW would deliver higher ratings by having the best programming from each brand on one channel.

Season to date, The CW has averaged only a 1.5 rating among adults 18 to 49, the same that UPN and The WB each averaged last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. Among households, the network is down 8 percent from the former networks’ averages.

CW stations owners, however, said they’ve benefited from the merge nonetheless, since both UPN and The WB targeted advertisers that coveted the same urban, young adult viewers.

“At one point the UPN and WB stations were competing for the same advertisers, and now The CW is the only multiprogrammed resource that’s targeted that way,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Television Group. “MyNetwork is not competing in the same way as UPN did.”

Telenovela Approach

MyNetworkTV is News Corp.’s prime-time programming initiative that rounded up and unified unaffiliated stations under a new network banner after the WB/UPN merger. In addition to introducing a new network, MyNetworkTV undertook a unique approach to prime time by scheduling English-language telenovelas.

Doug Gealy, president and chief operating officer of the Acme Communications station group, said ratings for his CW stations are still down compared with last year, but that flagging numbers haven’t hurt profits.

“We used to have a couple nights we couldn’t sell because the ratings were so low,” Mr. Geal said. “Though we’re off as a whole in ratings, we seem to be climbing every week and we don’t have any more dog days.”

After the merger announcement last January, advertising time during WB and UPN programming was a tough sell for local stations, since the networks were regarded as lame ducks. Still, Mr. Geal said that by any measure, ad revenue is up.

“We’re up compared to last November,” he said. “Compared to last May, we’re way up. Compared to last July, we’re through the roof.”

As expected, station revenues for MyNetwork are not so merry. Not only were ratings far lower than what station owners had expected or hoped for, but ad revenue is also off target.

“Their revenue is way, way down, versus last year,” said Mr. Hendricks, whose company owns MyNetworkTV affiliates in Philadelphia and Seattle. “Most people think [MyNetwork] is a disaster. There was not the marketing dollars in many of these markets to create the awareness that will eventually be there.”

Mr. Carroll said he suspects MyNetworkTV retained the advertisers that initially bought time with the channel, but finding new advertisers since its debut has to be challenging considering the network’s ratings performance.

“Going in and seeking new advertisers when their performance isn’t as positive as they hoped, I’m sure that’s impacting them,” he said.