- 2006 United States broadcast TV realignment
January 24and September 18, 2006, the United States broadcast televisionindustry was realigned. The country's two "second-tier" television networks, The WB and UPN, were shut down and their operations were transferred to a new joint-venture "fifth" network, The CW Television Network. Meanwhile, the Fox Television Stations Grouplaunched a new network of its own, myNetworkTV, as a result of its ownership of several UPN stations in large cities blocked from affiliating with The CW.
In January 1995,
The WB Television Networkand the United Paramount Network were launched, each hoping to recreate the success of the Fox network, which had launched in 1986 and which had quickly became one of America's "major" networks. All three networks had been joint ventures between major Hollywood studios and large owners of previously independent stations. The WB was originally owned by Time Warner's Warner Bros.; later the Tribune Companywould buy into the network. UPN was founded by Paramount Picturesand Chris-Craft Industries.
However, both new networks launched to limited fanfare and generally poor results. In the next eleven-and-a-half seasons, despite a number of minor-hit or cult-hit series such as "" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", neither network was able to attain the stature Fox had gained in its first decade, much less that of the longstanding "Big Three" television networks (ABC,
CBS, and NBC). By early 2006, both networks were losing money, although The WB had been profitable a few seasons earlier. UPN had never turned a profit. Reports indicated that the prospects for both networks were fading quickly.
A further complication was the various shifts in network and affiliate ownership at UPN. Shortly after its launch, Paramount was purchased by
Viacom, which later purchased the CBSnetwork. Viacom was permitted to keep interests in both networks. Chris-Craft's relations with Viacom were strained in 2000 when the latter firm exercised a contractual right to force Chris-Craft to either buy Viacom out of UPN, or sell out itself to Viacom. Chris-Craft could not find a suitable partner and sold out. [ [http://www.medialifemagazine.com/news2000/mar00/news20321.html Viacom wins UPN so let the digestion begin] , " Media Life Magazine", March 2000] That August, when Chris-Craft put its television stations, most of them UPN affiliates, up for sale, it sold to News Corporation's Fox Television Stations Groupinstead of Viacom. At the time, Fox seemed to be a willing partner in UPN, but made no firm commitment. [ [http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA17221.html Fox in the UPN house] , Steve McClellan, " Broadcasting & Cable", August 21, 2000] Fox later renewed its UPN affiliation through 2006. At the end of 2005, Viacom split into two companies: a new company named Viacom, and CBS Corporation (essentially the old Viacom renamed). In this "split", ownership of UPN went to CBS Corporation.
The new "fifth" network
January 24, 2006, CBS Corporationand Time Warner announced they would shut down both UPN and The WB that fall. In place of these two networks, a new "fifth" network, jointly owned by both companies, would launch, with a lineup of the most popular programming of both networks. The network was given the tentative name " The CW Television Network" ("CW" representing the first initials of CBS and Warner). [ [http://www.timewarner.com/corp/newsroom/pr/0,20812,1152384,00.html CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment Form New 5th Broadcast Network] , CBS / Time Warner joint press release, January 24, 2006]
The CW immediately announced ten-year affiliation agreements with 16 WB affiliates owned by
Tribune Broadcasting, and 11 UPN Owned-and-operated stations under CBS ownership, giving the new network coverage of all of the top 13 markets and 48% of the country. The remaining affiliates were to be drawn from the pool of stations affiliated with UPN and The WB.
It was immediately clear that Fox Television Stations, UPN's largest affiliate group aside from network O&Os, would be blocked from affiliating with the new network in media markets with Tribune stations, including the three largest markets. Rumours immediately began to circulate that Fox would plan its own network for those stations and others left out in the merger. [ [http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6301540.html?display=Breaking+News&referral=SUPP WB, UPN Fold Shocks NATPE in Vegas] , John Eggerton, "Broadcasting & Cable", January 24, 2006] The rumors proved true, and Fox launched its own network,
myNetworkTV, a programming service meant to fill the two nightly prime time hours that opened up on its UPN-affiliated stations after the start of The CW. Fox also offered the service to other stations. [http://www.newscorp.com/news/news_277.html]
Following the CW network announcement, the new network immediately announced ten-year affiliation agreements with the
Tribune Companyand CBS Television Stations Group. Tribune committed 16 stations (including its flagship broadcast stations WGN-TVin Chicago, KTLAin Los Angeles and WPIXin New York) that were previously affiliated with The WB, while CBS committed 11 of its UPN stations (including WKBDin Detroit, WPSGin Philadelphia and WUPAin Atlanta). These stations combined to reach 48 percent of the United States. Both groups also owned several UPN/WB stations that did not join The CW in overlapping markets. As part of its agreement, Tribune agreed to divest its interest in The WB and did not take an ownership interest in The CW.
The network would eventually reach 95 percent of the United States. In markets where both UPN and The WB affiliates operated, only one station became a CW affiliate. CW executives were on record as preferring the "strongest" stations among existing The WB and UPN affiliates. However, as the reorganization was structured not as a merger in the legal sense, but as a new network launching concurrent with the WB/UPN shutdown, The CW was not obligated by existing affiliations with The WB and UPN. It had to negotiate from scratch with individual stations.
As a result, in some markets, the new CW affiliate was a different station than either the former The WB and UPN stations. In
Helena, Montana, ION affiliate KMTFbecame a CW station. In Las Vegas, Nevada, independent station KVCWsigned for CW affiliation. In Honolulu, Hawaii, The CW did not appear until early December 2006, where it was carried on a digital subchannel of local FOX affiliate KHON-TV. The network also affiliated with some digital channels, mainly newly-launched subchannels of a local Big Four affiliate, in several markets.
Under the new network, a new service titled
The CW Plus[http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6310810.html?display=Breaking+News] began serving Nielsen DMAs with rankings of 100 and lower. The CW Plus is similar to The WB 100+ Station Group, which supplied locally-branded WB-affiliated cable channels. In most cases, distribution for The CW Plus covers not only cable but broadcast as well, including the digital subchannels discussed above.
March 1, five affiliates—four WB, one UPN—were the first outside the CBS/Tribune core to sign CW affiliate deals. [http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6312099.html?display=Breaking+News] . By May 18, 2006, 174 stations had become affiliates of The CW, reaching 105 million households and covering 95.3% of the country (the latter two figures excluding the CW stations in Puerto Ricoand the U.S. Virgin Islands).
Station groups with a large number of CW affiliates include
Pappas Telecasting, ACME Communications, and Sinclair Broadcast Group, although many other large groups, including Hearst-Argyle, Clear Channel, and Belohave signed up selected stations. Sinclair signed on in early May despite reservations with The CW's reported demands for reverse compensation( [http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.showArticleHomePage&art_aid=40247] ).
WGN-TVin Chicago became part of the CW network, its out-of-market " Superstation WGN" feed, which stopped airing WB programming in 1999, similarly does not air programs from The CW Network. Several affiliates changed their call letters to reflect their new affiliation with the CW (e.g. WNPA-TV (Pittsburgh) to WPCW-TV, WJWB (Jacksonville) to WCWJ, WHCP ( Portsmouth, Ohio( Charleston, West Virginiamarket)) to WQCW, WEWB( Albany, New York) to WCWN, KWCV( Wichita, Kansas) to KSCW, WBDC ( Washington, D.C.) to WDCW, KBHK (San Francisco) to KBCW, and KHWB(Houston) to KHCW). In August 2006, CBS Corporation's CW stations dropped all references to UPN from their branding.
Due to the availability of "instant duopoly" digital subchannels, and the overall lack of a need to settle for a secondary affiliation with shows aired in problematic timeslots, both The CW and myNetworkTV launched with far greater national coverage than that enjoyed by UPN and the WB when they started in 1995. For several years, UPN had coverage gaps in the top 30 markets, and by 2005 had only managed to reach 86% of the population. This resulted in secondary affiliations with other networks and diluted ratings when programs were shown out of their intended timeslots, or the lack of the program airing at all (a problem experienced by many "
Star Trek" fans with ' and ').
The announcement of The CW caused the largest single shakeup of U.S. broadcast television since the Fox/New World Communications alliance of 1994 and the subsequent launches of UPN and The WB the following year. While The CW debut affected more markets, it was unlikely to cause the same degree of viewer confusion, as almost no affiliates of the four major networks dropped those affiliations.
Only two former Big Four affiliates switched their primary affiliation, in both cases from Fox to myNetworkTV:
Jackson, Mississippi(#87), Fox affiliate WUFXswapped affiliations with sister station WDBD(The WB) in the summer, then joined myNetworkTV in the fall. (WDBD had been Jackson's original FOX affiliate, until 2001.) Unrelated UPN affiliate WRBJ, which went on the air in early 2006, joined The CW.
*In Fort Smith-
Fayetteville, Arkansas(#102), low-power Fox affiliate KPBI-CAswitched to myNetworkTV (along with KPBI (TV). Fox had moved its affiliation to full-power KFTA-TV, formerly a satellite of NBC affiliate KNWA-TV. None of the three stations that were available (the two KPBI's and UPN affiliate KFDF-CA) joined The CW; they are all owned by Equity Broadcasting, which shunned The CW in every one of its markets. (KFDF-CA joined Equity's own RTN instead.) The following year, the CW would finally come to the market on a cable-only channel available on Cox systems (and eventually on digital subchannels of the market's ABC affiliate, KHBS/KHOG-TV). There were several other cases where Big Four affiliates picked up The CW, myNetworkTV, or both as a secondary affiliation or a digital subchannel.
The WB and UPN were the first major television networks to close since the collapse of the
DuMont Television Networkin 1955, although other small broadcast television networks have also ceased operations over the years.
In those media markets where there were separate The WB and UPN stations, one local station was left out in the merger. Most of those stations signed with
myNetworkTV. Other stations elected to become independent stations while some joined smaller broadcast networks (such as RTN); Equity Broadcasting, owner of RTN, did not commit any of their WB affiliates to the CW. A few stations even joined older networks (see below). Some stations (mainly digital subchannels, cable channels such as those that were WB 100+ cable channels, and struggling low-power stations) which received neither network's affiliation opted instead to sign off permanently and cease to exist; for example, the "UPN17" cable channel run by Dayton, Ohio's CBSaffiliate, WHIO-TVceased broadcasting at the end of 2006.
Following the CW network announcement, Tribune indicated they would be interested in Fox-developed programming blocks such as myNetworkTV for its three stations not taking the CW affiliation—WPHL, WATL and KTWB (now
KMYQ)—and on May 15, Tribune announced that those stations would become MyNetworkTV affiliates. [http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8HKD1EG0.htm?campaign_id=apn_home_down&chan=db] In contrast, CBS initially seemed more hostile to MNTV, and announced its remaining UPN affiliates would all become independent stations. Eventually three CBS-owned stations—WBFS in Miami, WUPLin New Orleans, Louisiana, and WB affiliate WTCN-CAin West Palm Beach, Florida—decided to affiliate with MNTV. WSBK in Boston remained independent; KTXAin the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex was constrained to independence in any event, as Fox-owned KDFIhad taken the myNetworkTV affiliation.
Meanwhile, four former UPN affiliates joined older networks.
WJKTin Jackson, Tennesseeand the digital subchannel of WBOC in Salisbury, Marylandjoined Fox on August 21 2006. WLQP-LPin Lima, Ohiobecame the local ABC affiliate on September 1 2006, while WSWGin Valdosta, Georgiabecame a CBSaffiliate and added MNTV as a digital subchannel on September 4.
Despite the launch of the CW on
September 18, many households around the country were not able to see the new network when it premiered because many stations in several markets were not able to strike a deal with Time Warner Cable. In many markets like Charleston, South Carolina; El Paso, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; Palm Springs, California; Corpus Christi, Texasand Lima, Ohio, where The CW is broadcast on a digital subchannel of the station's primary affiliate, many of these stations were unsuccessful in getting Time Warner Cableto carry their CW subchannels on basic cable lineups. Ironically, The CW is 50% owned by TWC's parent company, Time Warner. In late 2006, the Palm Springs ( KCWQ-LP), El Paso [KVIA (DT2) ]and Honolulu (KHON-DT2) affiliates became available on TWC.
In three of the top 10 media markets (Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth and the
San Francisco Bay Area), programs from The WB, UPN, and myNetworkTV were all available to viewers by September 5to September 17because MNTV affiliated with former independent stations WZMY, KDFI, and KRON respectively.
August 14 2006, UPN and The WB stopped inserting their bugs into prime time programming, which allowed new CW affiliates to add The CW lower thirdsand bug during this time. WB affiliates automatically had The CW lower thirds and bug inserted into primetime programming.
UPN also ended all promotional advertising for their programs during network time on the same day (except for audition promotions during "America's Next Top Model"), though some local stations may have still aired promos for network shows. On The WB, advertising for their shows continued during their network time, though the promos were mixed between The WB and The CW.
Possibly because of station pre-emptions, UPN stopped customizing the
closing creditsof their shows to their graphics scheme, instead showing studio credits full-screen with theme music and no promo (except for "America's Next Top Model", which had a preview of the next episode on the left of the screen, and credits to the right). Meanwhile, The WB's closing credits remained in the standard network-created "bottom 1/3rd credits, top 2/3rds promo" format.
The WB brought back reruns and unaired episodes of the sketch comedy series "
Blue Collar TV" to Wednesday nights, along with repeat and unaired episodes of " Just Legal" on Sunday nights, though both programs were long cancelled by the time they came back in the summer. The network's infamous " Friday night death slot" also featured low-cost movies on some weeks, as did UPN's Wednesday night.
Prior to the MNTV announcement, several stations had reportedly begun to search for new programming to fill empty timeslots, which had been likely to further boost the fortunes of the syndication industry. Ironically, one of those syndicated offerings, Desire, eventually became part of myNetwork TV's fall 2006 schedule.
January 27, 2006, La Crosse, WisconsinUPN affiliate KQEG dropped its UPN affiliation, becoming the first station to drop an affiliation due, presumably, to the merger. It retained its FamilyNetaffiliation. Granite Broadcastinghad previously reached an agreement to sell their WB-affiliated stations in San Francisco and Detroit— KBWBand WMYD(the former WDWB), respectively—to AM Media, a unit of private equity firm Acon Investments. With the dissolution of The WB, and with CBS owning UPN stations in both cities already announced as joining The CW, the deal between Granite and AM Media eventually fell apart, and Granite announced its intentions to sell the stations to DS Audible, LLC instead for a lesser price. Granite is now suing CBS and Time Warner over the failed deal. [http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6335857.html?display=Breaking+News] On July 18 2006, the DS Audible deal also fell apart. [http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/07-18-2006/0004398783&EDATE=] Granite is still seeking a buyer for KBWB, but will now keep WMYD. On December 11, 2006, Granite filed for Chapter 11bankruptcy protection.
CBS filed suit against
Beloin early 2006 for allegedly reneging on the purchase of WUPLin New Orleans, following the announcement that Tribune-owned competitor WNOL would take the CW affiliation (but before WUPL's affiliation with MNTV was announced), though the sale had already been complicated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The deal was made to create a duopoly for Belo (with market-dominant CBS affiliate WWL-TV). All matters were settled towards the end of February 2007 however, as the station was sold to Belo, and WUPL's operations were merged into WWL's Rampart Street facility shortly thereafter.
After the end of May 2006 sweeps, as both networks started shutting down, many stations began to pre-empt UPN and WB programming en masse for various reasons. UPN affiliate
WACYin Appleton-Green Bay (that market's myNetworkTV station) as of June 5) opted to replace all of the network's second hour of programming whenever possible (except for Veronica Mars) with airings of infomercials [http://img82.imageshack.us/img82/2289/titantv4ml.jpg] .
WBQC(which became an independent station) continued to air UPN, but on July 4moved the network to a deep late night slot, from 2 a.m.-4 a.m. early Tuesday morning-early Saturday morning. The July 4 date was used to promote the station's "Independence Day" programming. [http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060625/ENT/606250308/1025/LIFE] .
Salt Lake City's
KPNZ, which also did not affiliate with either network (The CW is on KUCW; MyNetworkTV is on KJZZ-TV), removed UPN programming entirely in June, and the network never found a replacement affiliate.
WBQTwas at one point seen as a CW affiliate on the official website, and even started advertising as such. Due to a lack of confirmation, the station's call letters were removed. However, on August 29 2006, WBQT signed a formal affiliation agreement with The CW.
In an affiliation move which occurred after The CW and myNetworkTV were both in operation for two seasons,
KSWB-TVin San Diego — one of the original Tribune-owned CW affiliates — announced in March 2008 that it would drop its CW affiliation and take over the Fox affiliation from Tijuana, Mexico-licensed XETV, which became effective on August 1of that year. This move made KSWB the first primary over-the-air CW affiliate to drop its affiliation in favor of one with another network. The fate of the CW affiliation in San Diego was unclear until July 2, when The CW announced that XETV would affiliate with The CW although that station was planning to take Tribune to court over the Fox affiliation.
UPN and The WB closures
UPN closed their network quietly on Friday,
September 15, with its usual airing of " WWE Friday Night SmackDown"; in addition, some stations aired the network's usual, but optional, weekend repeat block. The low-key closure was not surprising given that in nine media markets, including the three largest, UPN was not available because the local affiliates were owned by Fox Television Stations Groupand switched to its new network, myNetworkTV, on September 5. UPN programs ended on WPWRin Chicago and KUTPin Phoenix on September 1, and on the other seven Fox-owned stations (including WWOR-TVin New York Cityand KCOPin Los Angeles) the day before, August 31.
Several CW affiliates began airing "Smackdown" and some other CW-renewed UPN programming a few weeks early to replace UPN affiliates who had made the switch to myNetworkTV. [http://www.wwe.com/inside/news/tribunesmackdown] Otherwise, it was unclear whether MNTV affiliates would air UPN or WB programs at all. [http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6355180.html?display=Breaking+News]
The WB closed their network on Sunday,
September 17with a five-hour block of pilot episodes of their past signature series, including " Felicity", "Angel", "Buffy" (which was a two-hour episode) and " Dawson's Creek", and during commercial breaks, re-airings of past image campaigns and network promotions. It also involved promo spots given to the cable networks which carried these shows in off-network syndication, along with ads for each series' TV-on-DVD box set [http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117946199?cs=1&s=h&p=0] .
After its final commercial break, the last thing viewers saw before The WB shut down was a montage of the stars of several of The WB's shows over the years, and ending with former mascot
Michigan J. Frogtaking a final bow. This was followed by the studio credits for the pilot of " Dawson's Creek"; the credits for the other three pilots that aired were shown in the network's standard credits format.
On two of Tribune's WB affiliates that joined The CW, the closure of The WB was marked with historical flashbacks of those stations. For example, on
September 17right after The WB shut down, WPIXin New York aired a montage of all of its logos throughout the station's history leading up to its current logo before its 10pm newscast aired. Meanwhile, KHCWin Houston aired a retrospective of the station's history during its 9pm news. Another Tribune WB affiliate that joined The CW, Dallas' KDAF, changed its newscast to CW33 News at Nine immediately following the end of WB programming, and featured a video clip of the sign being changed outside the studio. However, the old WB33 News at Nine bumper aired upon the first return from commercial that night.
The final night of WB programming netted relatively low ratings, mustering only a share of 2, meaning just 2% of viewers were tuned in to the WB on its final night. [http://www.zap2it.com/tv/ratings/zap-ratings091706,0,3564174.story?coll=zap-tv-ratings-headlines] This was mostly because certain areas whose WB affiliates became myNetworkTV affiliates, leaving The WB's final two weeks of programming unavailable in those areas. A clip of the final few moments can be seen by clicking [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVR78SujJyI here] .
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