The CW: Crazy Wishful-thinking

The launch of CW could have this equation: One part broadcasting, one part Internet, and one part headache. If CW were an athlete, this would equal a runner with a limp.

Deep-thinking TV executives are already in reveries about CW--musing possible on-demand dreams for the new WB and UPN merged network, the CW: start a new broadcasting network catering to young viewers who also have immediate access to network shows on iTunes Music Store, or through on-demand home or Internet options.

Fast-forward to a year from now. An annoyed station general manager in Knoxville, Tenn. hears the squeals of young girls in the mall who are watching video on their iPods while shopping at Wet Seal. The incensed TV executive grumbles : "I bet they're watching 'Veronica Mars' or 'Gilmore Girls'!" And, no doubt, stealing local ratings points from his station.

Rewind back to the present. After being beaten up by the older established networks with new on-demand video deals, local stations get the drift. They aren't as powerful as they used to be; it's a new TV world, one that might not welcome their orbit.



So for the first time ever, a TV station for a new network will decide from day one whether a new type of exclusive arrangement with a network programming service is enough to make money. It's an exclusive window that used to be measured in years; now, in hours.

A gun-to-the-head kind of scenario is at work here: stations that don't sign up essentially get put in the way-back machine, back to 1988, or 1990, when independent UHF stations needed fresh prime-time programming every year. That's like telling a Ph.D. candidate in math to take a geometry class again.

It just doesn't add up.

In this new-technology world, the promise is that everyone and every company can be a video producer. Not just individuals--but, even, yes, local TV stations. Local stations aren't the most popular entertainment places for young people to go for cool programming. So this won't be easy. But using strong local on-air marketing presence to develop rich, deep and local (and cool, one hopes) Internet communities, those truly entrepreneurial have a shot.

No doubt, there are those who would already have done the addition. The proof is in the program.

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