WB Network Still Seeing Red

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WB Network Still Seeing Red, President Says

Reuters
Jul 25 2000 12:56AM ET
By Michael Schneider
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) – Recovering from last season’s disappointing ratings,
the WB will take a little longer than expected to show a profit, network
chairman Jamie Kellner said Monday.

Speaking at the WB’s portion of the summer Television Critics Assn. press
tour, Kellner said the loss of cable carriage from WGN Chicago — which
deleted a substantial portion of the WB’s distribution — pushed the
network’s economic goals “backwards one year.”

But Kellner predicts the network will still break even sometime within the
2001-2002 TV season, just seven years after the netlet launched. UPN, which
debuted at the same time, lags far behind.
“When I look at the business plan, in some cases I can just slide the
numbers over one column,” Kellner said.

On top of it all, Kellner also expects ratings gains for the WB this year,
which could help the network catch up to its timetable.
“We absolutely expect that we’ll see a return to the growth pattern that
we’ve seen,” he said.

The WB lost around $93 million in 1999, but Kellner expects this year’s
number to be around $20 million lower than that.

The exec notes that the WB has now regained a good portion of the
distribution lost last year, and now reaches about 87% of the country.
(Before losing WGN, the WB reached about 90% of TV homes.)
Meanwhile, Kellner — who admits the network should not have expanded to a
sixth night last season — said the WB won’t move into a seventh night,
Saturday, any time soon.

“Saturday night is probably the least exciting place to invest in
programming,” he said. “It may be a place we stay away from just a while.”
He noted that many WB affiliates are committed to carry sports on Saturday
nights and that only CBS is airing scripted series on the night next season.
“The night is already being bypassed by the Big Four nets next fall,” he
said.

And Kellner predicted that the WB will probably be able to renew 20th
Century Fox TV’s “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” at a ”fair price” later this
fall.

“There’s a reality in this business about how much revenue a TV show as
narrow as that can generate,” he said. “One of the advantages we have by
being a niche-oriented service is that programming won’t work on a broad
appeal network. So you don’t get into that bidding situation that you might
get into with ‘ER.”’

On the reality programming front — the topic du jour at this summer’s
press tour — the WB has lagged behind most of its competitors in
developing series. But WB execs say there’s a good reason: most reality
series don’t attract young women (the WB’s core audience).
Still, WB Entertainment president Susanne Daniels said the network isn’t
ruling out the possibility of developing more reality series beyond the
previously announced series “Pop Stars” and Henry Winkler pilot “Reality
Check.”

“Our department has heard over 50 reality pitches at this point,” Daniels
said. “We’re really picking and choosing very carefully.”

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