The WB Needs Big Christmas Gifts

The WB needs a lot this Christmas--better programs, and apparently even another partner or two.

Tribune Co. already owns 22.5 percent of the company; the rest is owned by Time Warner. But with financial red ink following them--and Carl Icahn pounding at the door--executives at the WB are considering other moves.

Already the network has had a bunch of layoffs (at Tribune, as well), specifically 50 jobs at the WB Network, its TV station group and its Kids' WB! unit. But insiders say the network needs a lot more than that. It needs what UPN has got. To help save money, that small network--which started the same time at the WB--uses the resources of its sister company, and owner, CBS, including CBS' research, ad sales, and back-office operations.

Possibilities have surfaced about WB partnering up with Walt Disney--or even selling the network outright. There's also been talks about rolling in the WB with Warner Bros. TV operations, headed up by Peter Roth.



But of course much could be rectified if WB gets some help in the programming area--but not exactly where you think.

Already this season, 40 percent of its schedule has been repeats, versus about 25 percent last year at this time, Steve Sternberg of Magna Global USA told The New York Times.

At the beginning of the season, it was WB's intent to grow out of its niche young female demographic--but that's where it got into trouble. It hasn't achieved that goal yet. It is down in overall viewers some 8 percent. And is down further--up to 17 percent--for its younger viewer demographics.

Rookie shows have had their problems: "Just Legal," with Don Johnson, lasted just three episodes; "Twins" is suffering. Two-year-old show "One Tree Hill" is losing viewers. Ten-year-old staple "7th Heaven" will go away at year's end.

Out of this season, it looks like younger-skewing "Supernatural" will definitely survive; "Related," with an older, more female demo, is slowly growing.

Is there a trend to be made of this hodgepodge of activities: Hardly.

Here's the good news--and it's a statement that could probably be said for any network: All it takes is one good hit. But finding it is more like a TV lottery: Here, executives don't get to choose the numbers. They get the "quick pick" option.

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