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Wednesday, January 25

TV - C-Ya CW! 

Some thoughts about Tuesday's announced merger of The WB and UPN into a new fifth network -- the CW. First -- the name is lamer than i (the new name of Pax -- the former seventh network).

The CW seems to stand for the new dynamic duo of CBS and Warner Bros. But come on -- CW? I tried coming up with good jokes about the new name all day and didn't do so hot. How about CU -- as in "C-U on some other channel"? People, including moi, quickly wondered if this new network follows "Conventional Wisdom" or if it will offer "Country Western" shows.

I'll bet that we'll see a better name when the new network launches in the fall. Here's hoping.

(BTW, i apparently stands for "infomercials", which is what they air in primetime.)

The deal seemed surprising because there didn't seem to be any public word that it was coming -- right now. At the same time, you could see that the "netlets" would need to do something -- both WB and UPN were struggling to keep their own schedules filled with shows worth watching and getting people to watch.

Back at the 1995 launch, pundits said both networks couldn't make it and that at least one would have to die. They were right -- neither of them will make it intact to the fall.

There's a lot of talk about which of the current roster of shows airing on both networks through the spring will survive. I don't think it's a big issue although I hope that my favorites (UPN's "Veronica Mars" and "Everybody Hates Chris") makes it through.

The new network will have to get serious about what it wants to be. Both have tried, with varying levels of success, to reach young adults, black families and the like. Both networks have stumbled when they try to switch gears on the audiences they're trying to attract. I don't know what the studios will do with The CW, I just hope they do.

There's been a lot of chatter about what will happen to the local stations airing WB or UPN programming. Just to keep things clear regarding local broadcasters. This deal involves the networks at the national level. The networks own only a handful of the local affiliates that broadcast their programming (and they seem to have priority for the new network).

So WB 4 in Anywhere, USA may air WB programming, but the local station is owned by Smithco Broadcasting.

We still need to see what the fallout is at the local level. This deal might leave Smithco and the other station owners scrambling (especially if their UPN/WB rival station is owned by CBS or WB-partner Tribune).

Considering that local broadcasting stations are highly valued ($100,000s to tens of millions), they aren't going to go away. I'll bet some of them will go back to syndicated programming and do all right. They'll probably be able to sell more local ads instead of airing national ads in primetime.

I think this merger may be an ideal time for many local stations to jump to ethnic-language programming. Spanish language programming is growing and getting increased recognition (this season, Nielsen started listing Univision's ratings alongside the Big 4 plus UPN, WB and i).

Parts of this commentary were first posted on the TrekBBS

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