August 4, 2000, Friday, FIVE STAR LIFT EDITION
WB ADMITS IT WAS A BAD FROG, PROMISES TO DO BETTER THIS FALL
Candor from a TV network. Now, that's refreshing. Instead of elaborate facts and figures defending its performance in the 1999-2000 season, the WB offered a single, self-deprecating graphic -- a huge, red arrow pointing downward.
After four years of successfully battling rival UPN in the race to endure as the No. 5 broadcast network, the WB slipped into sixth place last season, its viewership down 20 percent. Two factors figured in the slide: A split from Chicago superstation WGN and its viewers, and the whopping success of UPN's wrestling series, "WWF Smackdown."
The network also expanded last season to a sixth night of programming, a move CEO Jamie Kellner now calls "a terrible mistake."
"We underestimated the effect of WGN," Kellner told TV critics meeting in Pasadena, Calif., last month to preview the fall season on network and cable. "We would have been much better off if we had ... kept as focused as we could on five nights." The WB still has no programming on Saturday, and that "may be a place we stay away from for quite a while."
Although "we didn't have a great season, which we acknowledge," Kellner predicted better things for 2000-2001, based on what he called a strong season of developing new series and the acquisition of two established ones: Eddie Murphy's animated "The PJs," from Fox, and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," from ABC. And with a solid audience of younger viewers, the WB was still able to command increased prices from advertisers, noted Kellner, whose company, Acme Communications, Inc., also owns KPLR in St. Louis, the No. 1 station in the WB family. "We absolutely expect we're going to see a return to the growth pattern" of the first four seasons.
In other news and schmooze from Kellner and WB
Entertainment president Susanne Daniels:
By all accounts, only two moments stood out.
If you care: "United" stood for United Television, owned by Chris-Craft, which was recently bought out by Viacom, which owns Paramount. A bigger concern for St. Louisans remains where to see UPN (or Paramount) programs. Nominal affiliate KNLC still finds few of the network's shows suitable for airing.
Valentine's answer, as recorded in a transcript of the press conference, was this: "I can't bring myself to BS you. It was just bad."
Now, that's candor.
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