After years of scrapping it out as the No. 5 and 6 broadcast networks, UPN
and The WB
will become one. CBS and Time Warner have agreed to combine their respective nets into one new 50-50 entity dubbed "CW."
CW will debut this September, when The WB and UPN will cease operations. Dawn Ostroff, president of UPN, will head up the network; John Maatta, chief operating officer of The WB, will do the same job at CW. The network will program 30 hours a week over seven days for affiliated stations. Some of the top shows from the collapsed nets likely to show up on CW include "America's Next Top Model," "Beauty and the Geek," "Smallville," "Gilmore Girls," "Veronica Mars," "Everybody Hates Chris" and the WWE's "Smackdown." Saturday mornings will include a five-hour block of Kids' WB! programming.
A total of 28 UPN and WB affiliates, owned by CBS and Tribune respectively, have agreed to sign 10-year affiliation deals with the new net. Together, the stations cover more than 48 percent of the country.
Tribune, Time Warner's broadcast station partner for The WB, will convert 16 of its 19 existing WB affiliates to the new network. Those stations are in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Washington, Houston, Miami, Denver, St. Louis, New Orleans, Indianapolis, San Diego, Portland, Ore; Hartford, Conn.; and Albany, N.Y.
CBS will convert its owned-and-operated UPN affiliates in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, Seattle, Tampa, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; Norfolk, Va.; and West Palm Beach, Fla.
The deals leave four CBS-owned UPN affiliates orphaned in Boston, Dallas, Miami, and New Orleans, while Tribune will have three WB orphans in Philly, Atlanta and Seattle.
A few Fox O & Os will also be left stranded. Fox parent News Corp. owns 10 UPN affiliates, six of which are in CBS-Tribune overlap markets--New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Washington. In the other four markets--Phoenix, Minneapolis, Baltimore and Orlando, Fla., Fox will have the option to compete against the existing WB affiliate for a CW affiliation.
Sinclair Broadcast Group was also hit; it owns six UPN stations and 18 WB affiliates, including stations in four overlap markets: Tampa, Pittsburgh, Norfolk and Oklahoma City. Sinclair also operates both WB and UPN affiliates in Milwaukee, Nashville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Raleigh, N.C.
Sinclair chief David Smith implied that affected stations would ramp up local programming.
"For Sinclair, this announcement will create greater programming opportunities in terms of serving the local viewer, in areas such as sports and locally produced events," he said in a statement. Smith said the shift would put about 1 to 1.5 percent of Sinclair broadcast revenues at risk, and that more details would emerge in the company's Feb. 8 conference call.