Levin Fails To Rise, Ousted As WB Chief

The fallout from this year's less-than-stunning television season continues, as one of the creative forces behind The WB was ousted in a shakeup of the troubled teen/young adult network.

Jordan Levin, who only last month became chief executive officer of The WB after several years at other top positions including entertainment president, will leave the network via that well-known exit route of the studio production deal. Levin's departure leaves Garth Ancier, chairman of The WB--who was running the network along with Levin--to run the company.

It's been a year of changes at The WB, with the departure of founder Jamie Kellner and top executive Jed Petrick, along with sour ratings and limited success with its new series, beginning with the high production value flop, "Tarzan and Jane." Nine months ago, when Kellner announced he would leave The WB, Levin and Ancier were given the reins of the network, with Levin becoming co-chief executive officer and Ancier becoming co-chairman.



The day of The WB's upfront presentation last May in New York City, Levin and Ancier shed the "co" titles and put on a united front in front of advertisers.

But that didn't last long, as Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Chairman/Chief Executive Officer Barry M. Meyer decided that a two-headed management team wasn't going to work.

"Taking a non-traditional organizational route was a noble effort, but having a sole leader is simply more productive, efficient, and effective," Meyer said in a statement. Ancier got the nod, and Levin was offered the job of entertainment president, which he declined.

"Although the job of president of entertainment at The WB is a great one, it is a job I have already done, and my goals are to continue my career as both a creative and a business executive," Levin said in a prepared statement.

Levin will leave before the fall season begins, but more importantly, his successor--who has yet to be named--will take over the development process afresh.

There won't be the in-flux nature of the changes at ABC, where Anne Sweeney and Stephen McPherson took over after their predecessors were fired about a month before presenting their schedules to advertisers.

Ancier will be in charge of prime time and Kids WB, and he will be responsible for finding an entertainment president.

At last month's upfront presentation at Madison Square Garden, it was Levin who was contrite when facing the advertisers, saying that he had erred in judging the strength of reality TV. He said he wouldn't make the same mistake again.

It almost seemed like open season on The WB, as it was pummeled from several sides during the upfront presentations, including a resurgent UPN and MTV Networks, which compete for the same dollars and eyeballs. But Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media in New York, said Monday that the competition for an audience took its toll on The WB under Levin. "It's a very difficult job he had, and so it's probably very difficult to expect The WB to maintain growth based on the intense competition," he said.

Adgate said that it's true that the network was behind the times with reality programming, and also had trouble finding success with situation comedies, with the exception of "Reba."

"They're not the only ones. Every network's had problems doing that of late," Adgate said.

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