Television

Warner, CBS team to create fifth US broadcast network

MUMBAI: In an announcement that marks some consolidation in American television media conglomerates Warner and CBS have anounced that they will merge their networks WB and UPN into one network called The CW.

The aim is to create a fifth broadcast network that will be able to compete better with the big four -ABC, Fox, NBC and CBS.

The CW will be launched later this year and will target the 18 to 34 year demographic. The new broadcasting network will be a joint venture between Warner and CBS Corporation, with each company owning a 50 per cent stake.

In an important strategic move that secures major market distribution for The CW, it was anounced that Tribune Broadcasting and the CBS Corporation's UPN affiliates have agreed separately to sign 10-year affiliation agreements with the new network.

The parties state that the combination of Tribune's 16 major market stations and the 12 CBS-owned UPN major market affiliates give The CW instant coverage in 48 per cent of the US. The remainder of the network's distribution system will be a combination of selected current UPN and The WB stations. The full distribution of the new network is expected to exceed 95 per cent of the US.

Current UPN persident Dawn Ostroff will become The CW president of entertainment. Current WB COO John Maatta becomes The CW COO. The programming lineup will include shows like WWE Smackdown! Smallville, Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris and the reality show America's Next Top Model

Media analysts says that the deal makes sense as both UPN and WB target the same audience from a programming viewpoint. Analysts are confident that in due course the CW could lead to the broadcast networks being referred to as the big Five. Of course a negative is that television production houses have one less outlet to sell shows to.

CBS Corporation president and CEO Leslie Moonves says, "This new network will serve the public with high-quality programming and maintain our ongoing commitment to our diverse audience. It will clearly be greater than the sum of its parts, delivering excellent demographics to advertisers, and building a strong new affiliate body."

"Additionally, The CW will be able to draw from the creative talent and production resources from the top two television production studios in the business, while also seeking programming from all sources, independent producers or other studios. With this move, we will be creating a viable entity, one well-equipped to compete, thrive and serve all our many publics in this multi-channel media universe.

"I'd like to thank Dawn Ostroff and all the

talented people at UPN who have worked so hard. For many years UPN had financial losses, but under CBS' guidance, UPN has been able to effect a dramatic creative turnaround in a short period of time," added Moonves.

Time Warner president and COO Jeff Bewkes says, "This is a very exciting day for Time Warner and its shareholders in the creation of what we believe will be a very strong and viable fifth broadcast television network. This new network will have all the strategic asset value as an outlet for our programming that The WB presented us, but with a much firmer and more secure financial present and future."

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