Zap2it: WB Execs Discuss Strike, Celebrate Demo Gains

“Dead Last” is the show with Sara Downing (Courtney on “Roswell”)

WB Execs Discuss Strike, Celebrate Demo Gains
Sun, Jan 7, 2001 01:40 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES ( – A looming writer’s strike and reality shows were high on the list of topics for WB network heads Jamie Kellner and Susanne Daniels as they met reporters Saturday during the annual Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.

Daniels said the network is preparing for the writer’s strike by getting 13 episodes ready of four series: the new drama “Dead Last,” along with the returning “Steve Harvey Show,” “For Your Love” and “Baby Blues.” The episodes should last the network through the end of the year, if necessary. In addition, Daniels noted, two reality shows could also be used on the schedule — “Popstars” and “Kiss the Bride.”

While the success of “Survivor” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” are part of the reason The WB has started developing reality shows, Daniels said “Popstars” would also act as a good companion piece for “Sabrina” on the net.

Kellner went a little further, explaining he believes the current increased interest in reality shows is simply part of a cycle, similar to that undergone by comedies when “The Cosby Show” revived the genre in the 1980s.

However, the possibility of a strike is also part of the reason the net is developing reality shows, though Kellner said the lower cost of reality shows is not a factor.

“It’s not a really cost-effective program form unless you have a massive hit,” Kellner explained, saying the shows have trouble repeating and rarely come back for a second season.

As for ratings this season, Kellner and Daniels did have some positive news. The network is the only one to show increases in its target demographic of women 18-34, and it has also shown significant growth among adults and men 18-34. The network’s average age of its viewers, which stands at 28.8, is also the lowest of all the nets.

Daniels also addressed questions about which shows stand a chance of coming back next season. She would only say that it was “likely” that “Charmed” and “7th Heaven” would return. The prognosis is also good for “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity,” while decisions on “Popular” and “Roswell” will probably be made at the end of the season. Of freshman series, Daniels said the network is “extremely enthusiastic” about “Gilmore Girls” and “Grosse Pointe.”

Still up in the air is the future of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The WB faces some contract negotiations with “Buffy’s” production company, Twentieth Century Fox, and could lose the show to another network if a deal can’t be reached.

Kellner said the network will probably offer all revenue earned from the show as incentive to keep it on The WB. If that’s not enough and “Buffy” moves to another net, the production company will have demonstrated that it’s “not the kind of partner we should be doing business with.”

And if the show does leave The WB, Daniels would not comment on what could happen to its spin-off “Angel.”