Time Warner and CBS announced today they would merge their two small television networks, UPN and WB, to form a new network called "The CW" starting in fall 2006.
CBS Corp. owns UPN, and the WB is owned by Warner Brothers and its parent company, Time Warner. The CW will be a 50-50 partnership between the two companies and will be run by executives from UPN and WB.
The two networks have been struggling for success, broadcasting fewer hours of primetime television each week than the four major primetime networks -- CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. Analysts said combining their programming would put the new network in a stronger position to compete with the bigger companies.
"They've both been somewhat fringe players, so obviously they'd be a stronger network when combined together," said James Goss, media analyst with Barrington Research.
The plan for The CW's primetime broadcast slate will include shows from the two networks' strongest performers, such as WB's "Gilmore Girls" and "Smallville," and UPN's "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Veronica Mars," which all draw respectable ratings.
"We are going to have quite a schedule," CBS CEO Les Moonves said, although it will be a challenge.
The WB and UPN will both cease programming when the new network launches next fall. It will have stations in the top 13 television markets, 20 of the top 25 television markets, and will have a total coverage area of more than 48 percent of the country.
Tribune Co., a minority owner of the WB, will carry the new broadcast channel on its network of local affiliates.
"Tribune is a logical candidate to tie in. It has affiliates with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, so it already has a major presence in the biggest markets," Goss said.
Moonves said The CW would air 30 hours of programming weekly and would be carried in 95 percent of television markets nationwide when it was launched. He also hopes that the new network will attract young and minority viewers, both audiences that advertisers want to reach.
"Looking down the road it was a much better thing than keeping UPN as it was," Moonves said. A new network born of weakness, hoping to compete better with the big guys.