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UPN, WB Networks To Merge

By Michelle
January 24, 2006 - 7:34 PM

UPN, the former network of Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Voyager before it, will shut down this fall as its parent company joins Warner Bros. in creating a new network.

CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. announced jointly that they would shut down UPN and The WB in the fall for the new television season, uniting to create a new network, The CW, whose name comes from the first letters of CBS and Warner Bros. The new network will cull programming from each of the currently struggling netlets. The New York Times reported that The CW "will cherry-pick the best programs off the two decade-old mini-networks, each of which has struggled to turn a profit."

Yahoo! noted that both smaller networks had struggled against NBC, ABC and FOX as well as CBS, which is currently a sibling network to UPN since both are owned by CBS Corp. CBS split from Viacom Inc. earlier this year, taking both UPN and Paramount Television while Paramount Pictures remains a part of Viacom. Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner, owns controlling interest in The WB.

The new network will be a 50-50 partnership between Warner Bros. and CBS. It will be carried on stations owned by the Tribune Co. and on the 12 UPN stations owned by CBS. These stations will give the new network coverage in half of the US and the parent companies hope to recruit new affiliates in other markets before The CW launches. The Tribune Co., which owns WGN in Chicago, WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles, will give up its minority ownership in The WB in exchange for a 10-year affiliation agreement with the The CW, which will begin by broadcasting 30 hours of programming seven days a week: two hours in prime time each night Monday through Friday and three hours on Sunday evening.

Dawn Ostroff, the current president of UPN - who is credited with the rebranding and targeting toward female viewers that contributed to Enterprise's cancellation - will be head of programming at the CW, while the WB's John Maatta will become the CW's chief operating officer.

A number of genre shows could be affected by the merger, including the WB's Smallville and Supernatural. UPN's popular Everybody Loves Chris and cult hit Veronica Mars might be affected as well.

"It makes a lot of sense since both networks have the same target - they are very competitive - and both have been struggling in getting large ratings," Brad Adgate, research chief at Horizon Media, told Bloomberg.

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