WB and UPN networks are merging
Combined network will debut in the fall as CW
January 24, 2006
For nearly 10 years, UPN and the WB have fought each other to become TV’s No. 5 network, neither attracting an audience big enough to threaten the Big Four.
Starting next fall, the two networks will no longer be competing against each other for the same young audience.
In a surprising move this morning, UPN and the WB announced that they will merge into one network, the CW, to launch in the fall. UPN president Dawn Ostroff will head entertainment for the CW, and WB chief operating officer John Maatta will become the CW’s COO.
The current WB stations owned by Tribune and CBS’s UPN affiliates will become CW affiliates, signing a 10-year deal. Those 28 stations will give the CW clearance in 48 percent of the country, with more expected to follow.
The announcement came this morning in New York by Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman and CEO Barry Meyer, CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves and Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons. The network will be jointly owned by Warner Bros. and CBS.
Both networks have had wild ups and downs over the years since they were founded in 1995.
This year UPN has thrived while the WB has struggled. There have been layoffs at the WB following more than 18 months of sinking ratings.
The network’s fourth quarter average rating among its target 12-34 audience fell 12 percent versus last year from a 1.7 to a 1.5. UPN, meanwhile, was up 7 percent, from a 1.5 to a 1.6, in its target 18-34s.
Among households, UPN is even to last year with a 2.4 while the WB dipped 8 percent, from a 2.4 to a 2.2. That’s according to Nielsen data analyzed by Magna Global USA.
It’s unclear what the new network’s target demographic will be, though it seems it will maintain its focus on younger viewers.
While the WB programs six nights a week and UPN only five, the new network will air 13 hours of programming six nights per week in primetime. Overall, it will air 30 hours per week over seven days, including a Saturday morning animation block and a Monday through Friday afternoon block.
It’s not clear what will happen to the shows currently airing on UPN and the WB. UPN’s most-watched show, America’s Next Top Model, was recently renewed for two more seasons.
The WB, meanwhile, had been cutting expensive programs such as 10-year veteran Seventh Heaven, set to end this May. But its Gilmore Girls and Smallville have been performing quite well this season.
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