- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

NEW YORK — Two small, long-struggling television networks — UPN and the WB, which air on Channels 20 and 50, respectively, in the Washington area — will shut down this fall, and programming from both will be used to start a new network aimed mainly at young and minority viewers.

The new network will be called the CW — “C” for CBS Corp. and “W” for Warner Bros. — each of which will own half of the new entity and contribute programs, assets and executives to the venture.

The WB was owned by Time Warner Inc., parent of Warner Bros., and the Tribune Co., a Chicago-based media company, which will relinquish its 22.5 percent stake in exchange for a 10-year affiliation deal to carry the new network on 16 of its stations, including Washington’s WBDC-TV (Channel 50).

“We’re going to have the WB programs [through August], and then we’ll become the CW network,” said Eric Meyrowitz, vice president and general manager of WBDC. “We’re ecstatic about the change. To get the best of the WB and UPN is just incredible.”

The CW will air 30 hours of programming each week, like the WB. Shows will air Monday through Friday 3-5 p.m. and 8-10 p.m., and Sundays 5-10 p.m. There also will be five hours of children’s programs on Saturday mornings, Mr. Meyrowitz said.

The CW also will be carried on the 12 stations owned by UPN, a unit of CBS Corp., guaranteeing the network carriage in 48 percent of the country and 20 of the top 25 TV markets. Network executives said they hoped to have agreements in place to cover most of the rest of the country by the time the network starts in the fall.

Fox Entertainment Group owns WDCA-TV (Channel 20), Washington’s UPN station. Local Fox executives did not return repeated calls for comment yesterday about the future of the station, which has been on the air since April 1966.

Chris Ender, a CBS spokesman, said UPN programming will air through the end of August on WDCA, but CW programs will be available exclusively on WBDC.

UPN and the WB had struggled to compete against larger rivals in the broadcast-TV business, including Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, General Electric Co.’s NBC, CBS Corp.’s CBS and News Corp.’s Fox. Both consistently place behind their larger rivals in the Nielsen ratings race and have financially burdened their parent companies.

“Looking down the road, this was much better than keeping UPN alive,” said Leslie Moonves, chief executive of CBS, which became a separate company from Viacom Inc., the owner of MTV and VH1, at the beginning of the year.

But it’s not clear that the combination of two struggling networks will result in a strong one or in a moneymaker.

“Chances are, in five years they may not exist at all, or it may be something else, but right now it’s better than going alone,” said Hal Vogel, a longtime media analyst and author of a book on the economics of the entertainment industry.

“This makes sense — it’s not a slam-dunk proposition, but it makes sense. Six networks was too many,” he said.

The new network will draw on programming from both UPN — whose shows include “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Veronica Mars” — and from the WB — whose shows include “Supernatural,” “Smallville” and “Everwood.”

The new network will based in a new, undetermined location, network executives said. The WB and UPN both are based in Southern California.

Dawn Ostroff, currently UPN’s president, will become the president of entertainment at the CW, overseeing programming. John Maatta, the WB’s current chief operating officer, will oversee business operations at the CW as COO.

CBS shares rose $1.08, or 4 percent, to $26.90 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange, while Tribune’s fell 25 cents to $29.65.

Time Warner’s shares rose 18 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $17.27.

Staff writer Dan Caterinicchia contributed to this article.

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