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UPN, WB networks become one

CBS and the Warner Brothers Entertainment unit of Time Warner have joined their UPN and WB television networks to create CW, a new venture designed to attract young viewers.

CW will select the most popular shows from UPN and WB and try to lure viewers under 35. The move, the New York Times reported, comes at a time when television networks are experimenting with ways to reach viewers, from DVDs to downloads to computers and iPods — technologies disproportionately used by younger consumers.

CBS President Lesley Moonves emphasized CBS’s role as content provider, saying the network intends to be a supplier of programming, whether it be delivered to homes free via television or through paid downloads. CW will remain a niche network devoted to serving only young adult viewers.

CBS and Warner Brothers will be 50-50 owners of the venture, which will broadcast 30 hours a week, including prime time, some daytime shows, and the Kids’ WB children’s block.

Barry Meyer, chairman of Warner Brothers Entertainment, told the paper the new network could be profitable in its first year. That would be a significant turnaround for both existing networks, which executives said had been losing $25 million to $75 million a year.

The CW name is a combination of CBS and Warner. It will begin operations on a new lineup of stations made up of the UPN group owned by CBS, and outlets owned by WB’s station partner, Tribune Broadcasting. Tribune, which is part owner of WB, will become the principal affiliate group. Those stations will reach about 48 percent of the country, and the new network has agreements with other affiliates to extend distribution to 95 percent of the country.

The Times reported that a senior CBS executive also suggested that CBS and Time Warner might get together again on a joint venture, saying that CNN and CBS News might make good partners.

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