Urge to merge leaves local television stations up in the air
NATIONAL networks long in the revenue toilet, and in some cases the ratings toilet, are merging in the hope of becoming a stronger network aimed at 18- to 34-year-old viewers and minorities.
The WB and UPN will cease their independent programming in September and merge to form a single network, CW.
CW is for CBS and Warner Bros., its 50-50 owners. Industry insiders joke about the order of the letters for the new network -- that it had to be CW because WC, or water closet, is where each struggling network had previously been.
Two 98-pound weaklings don't add up to an 800-pound gorilla, even with some hit programming.
The WB carries "Smallville," "Gilmore Girls" and "Everwood," while UPN's shows include "America's Next Top Model," "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Girlfriends." Oh yeah, it also carries WWE shows like "Friday Night Smackdown."
"I don't think many in the industry were aware that these negotiations were taking place," said John Fink, vice president and general manager of KHNL, an NBC affiliate, and KFVE, Hawaii's WB affiliate.
"We're very happy with our affiliation and we look forward to whatever the future brings."
Phyllis Kihara, general manager of UPN affiliate KIKU, could not be reached for comment.
KFVE had previously been a primary UPN affiliate that ran some WB programming but made the switch when it became possible.
Fink said he has not yet been contacted by the WB about the merger. "From what we're hearing about the merger, what will arise from this should be a stronger entity because we will not have two entities in competition for 18- to 34-year-olds; there will be one network, for the strongest programming options," he said.
But the merger will leave some affiliates in markets like Honolulu, where there is one WB station and one UPN station, without any programming at all.
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