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The WB Television Network (2008)

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  Summary  

The WB Television Network is a former television network in the United States that was launched on January 11, 1995 as a joint venture between Warner Bros. and Tribune Broadcasting. On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced plans to shut down the channel and launch The CW Television Network later that same year. WB Television Network shut down on September 17, 2006, and merged with UPN .

The WB Television Network was re-launched as an online network on April 28, 2008 by Warner Bros. The new website allows users to watch shows of the former TV network. The website can only be accessed within the United States.

  Biography  

 Origins (1986–1995)
Much like its competitor UPN, the WB Television Network was a reaction primarily to new FCC deregulation of media ownership rules that repealed fin-syn, and partly to the success of the upstart Fox and first-run syndicated programming during the late 1980s and early 1990s such as Baywatch, Star Trek: The Next Generation and War of the Worlds, as well as the erosion in ratings suffered by independent television stations due to the growth of cable television and movie rentals. The network can also trace its beginnings to the Prime Time Entertainment Network, a joint venture between Warner Bros. and the Chris-Craft Industries group of stations.

On November 2, 1993 the Warner Bros. Entertainment division of Time Warner announced the formation of the WB Television Network with Tribune Company holding a minority interest; as such, Tribune signed an agreement with the network to affiliate with the majority of Tribune Broadcasting's television stations, which at the time consisted largely of independent stations. The WB originally was slated to launch with two nights of primetime programming in the first year, with two additional nights of primetime, a late primetime half-hour strip, 4½ hours of weekday daytime programming and a four-hour Saturday morning children's lineup in the second year; by the third year, a fifth night of primetime and 1½ hours of weekday programming outside of primetime would have been added, followed by an additional hour of primetime and 1½ hours on weekday afternoons by year four, and a seventh night of primetime in the fifth year of operation. However, the plan was scaled back dramatically, particularly as only one night of primetime programming debuted as the network launched; and by September 1995, The WB added only one additional night , plus a three-hour Saturday morning and one-hour weekday morning children's block.

The Tribune stations (which included the television group's flagship station WGN-TV in Chicago, as well as WPIX in New York City and KTLA in Los Angeles) became de facto owned-and-operated stations of the network through Tribune's minority interest in the network. Warner Bros. Entertainment appointed many former Fox network executives to run the network, including the network's original chief executive Jamie Kellner, who served as president of Fox from 1986 to 1993; and president of programming Garth Ancier, who was the programming chief of Fox from 1986 to 1989.

 1995–97: Beginnings
The WB Television Network began its life on January 11, 1995. The classic Warner Bros. cartoon character Michigan J. Frog appeared on-air as the network's official mascot, and would remain in the network's branding in one form or another until 2005. The WB's schedule was similar to Fox's when it launched, as it started with one night a week of programming and then gradually added additional nights of programming over the course of several seasons: the network started with a two-hour Wednesday night lineup of sitcoms, airing from 8–10 p.m. ET. The network's first programs were mostly sitcoms targeted at an ethnically black audience. Even though four of the five shows shown in the netlet's first nine months (The Wayans Bros., The Parent 'Hood, Sister, Sister , and Unhappily Ever After) were renewed beyond the first year, none of them made a significant impact.

From 1995 to 1999, the network received additional national cable distribution through Chicago-based superstation WGN-TV, whose local Chicago-area feed served as a charter affiliate of WB, in order to give the network time to find affiliates in markets where the network was unable to find a station to carry the network at launch. The decision to have WGN's superstation feed act as a de facto affiliate of the WB Television Network to markets that did not have an affiliate was made one month after the announcement of the network's launch on December 3, 1993.

The WB Television Network began programming on Sunday nights in the 1995–1996 season, but none of the new shows (including the Kirk Cameron vehicle Kirk and night-time soap opera Savannah) managed to garner much viewing interest. Still, the network continued to expand in the 1996–1997 season, adding programming on Monday nights. This season gave The WB modest hits in the family drama 7th Heaven and comedies The Steve Harvey Show and The Jamie Foxx Show.

The network also added the Kids' WB programming block in 1995, which mixed Warner Brothers' biggest hit animated shows , with new productions and original shows (such as Freakazoid!, Histeria!, Superman: The Animated Series, Road Rovers, Pinky and the Brain and Batman Beyond).

 1997–2000: Courting the teen market
The WB Television Network first began to experience success with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which became a hit with critics when it appeared as a mid-season replacement in March 1997. It debuted with the highest Monday night ratings in the network's history, attracting not only new teenage viewers, but new advertisers as well.

Inspired by Buffys success, The WB intentionally shifted the focus of its programming, trying to capture what it perceived to be a heavily fragmented market by marketing to the under-courted teen demographic. While the Fox network, the previous destination for teen television (with shows such as Beverly Hills, 90210 and Parker Lewis Can't Lose), began to court older audiences with shows such as Ally McBeal, The WB began to craft its identity with teen-targeted programs. The network's breakout hit and, arguably, its signature series was Dawson's Creek, which debuted in January 1998 to what were then the highest ratings in the network's history. It quickly became the highest rated show on television among teenage girls, and the most popular show on the network. The popularity of the show helped boost other network shows, such as Buffy, which served as its lead-in on the network's new night of programming also launched in January 1998, known as "New Tuesday," and 7th Heaven, which enjoyed a massive 81% increase in viewership that season.

With three hit shows in its roster, the WB Television Network continued to build its teen fanbase the following season with college drama Felicity and the wicca-themed Charmed, both of which set new records for the network when they premiered with 7.1 and 7.7 million viewers, respectively. Charmed had the highest-rated premiere on the network until Smallville broke its record, debuting to 8.4 million viewers in October 2001. The network also expanded to air original programming on Thursday nights. That season, 7th Heaven garnered The WB the highest ratings it would ever see. The episode airing February 8, 1999 attracted 12.5 million viewers. That season also saw 7th Heaven overtake Dawson's Creek as the network's highest rated show.

In the 1999–2000 season, the network expanded once again, adding Friday night programming. New shows that season included Roswell, Popular, and Angel (a spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), which premiered with 7.5 million viewers, the second highest premiere for the net at the time. During this season, The WB was the only network to have gains in its audience and each key demographic.

 2000–03: Broadening the focus

As the teen boom of the late 1990s began to wane, the WB Television Network attempted to broaden the scope of its line-up. Although teen fare like Popular and Roswell had premiered to strong ratings, both series saw serious ratings erosion in their sophomore seasons, leading the network to cancel both . Meanwhile, even though ratings for 7th Heaven, Buffy, and Charmed remained consistent, viewership for flagship series such as Felicity and Dawson's Creek began sagging. The network realized that it could no longer rely merely on the tastes of young teenage girls, and thus began moving into more family-friendly fare, attempting to launch a successful sitcom, and generally targeting a more diverse audience.

The move came as during the 1999–2000 season, The WB dropped to sixth place in the ratings behind UPN, losing 19% of its household audience; network executives attributed the ratings decline in large part due to WGN-TV's decision to remove WB network programming from its national superstation feed after deciding the network's national distribution was large enough that broadcasting its programming outside of Chicago was no longer necessary, reducing The WB's potential household audience by 10 million homes (WGN-TV continued to carry WB programming over-the-air in the Chicago market and on northeastern Illinois cable providers until the network shut down in 2006). Despite the slight downturn in the network's fortunes, there were a few bright spots during the era. Gilmore Girls, which debuted in 2000, netted meager ratings when it debuted in a tough Thursday time-slot, but subsequently grew into one the network's most successful shows after moving in 2001 to its Tuesday time-slot where it remained for seven seasons. Also in the fall of 2000, the sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch moved to The WB's Friday night schedule from ABC. The show continued on The WB for three more seasons before ending in 2003.

In 2001, Smallville debuted with 8.4 million viewers, the highest premiere in the history of the network; the latter show was also important because it was one of the few shows that drew a substantial male viewership. 2001 also saw the launch of the Reba McEntire vehicle Reba, arguably the network's most successful comedic series. Other series to gain attention during this time period were the family series Everwood, and the short-lived but critically acclaimed soap satire Grosse Pointe.


Also in 2001, Time Warner moved the WB Television Network to its Turner Broadcasting System division from Warner Bros. Entertainment from 2001 until 2003, when The WB was reassigned back to the Warner Bros. unit.

 2003–06: Decline
Despite some early success, the network struggled to shift its focus from the female 12–24 demographic to the broader 12–34 range. In 2005, the network abandoned its trademark mascot, Michigan J. Frog, as the network's iconic emblem. David Janollari, The WB's President of Entertainment, explained in July 2005 at the network's summer 2005 press tour that " was a symbol that perpetuated the young-teen feel of the network. That's not the image we want to put to our audience."

Still, the move did not seem to help the network. The period from 2003 to 2005 produced only three viable new series, One Tree Hill, Beauty and the Geek, and Supernatural , and even still their ratings paled in comparison to the ratings peaks of Dawson's Creek, which had signed off in 2003. Ratings dropped for shows like Angel , and the network failed to launch new hit shows to take their places.

Although The WB's well-known inability to launch successful comedy series was nothing new , this period saw the network struggling to establish new dramas as well. High-profile failures included Birds of Prey , Tarzan, Jack & Bobby, The Mountain, Jerry Bruckheimer's Just Legal, Marta Kauffman's Related, and the Rebecca Romijn vehicle Pepper Dennis.

During the 2004–05 season, the WB Television Network finished behind rival UPN for the first time in several years, and fell even further behind in the fall of 2005. Both networks fell behind the Spanish language network Univision in the overall 18–34 demographic.

It was estimated in 2005 that The WB was viewable by 91.66% of all households, reaching 90,282,480 houses in the United States; the network was carried by 177 VHF and UHF stations in the U.S., counting both owned and operated and affiliated stations . The network could also be seen in smaller markets on cable-only stations, many of these through The WB 100+ Station Group – available to TV markets below the number 100 in viewership as determined by Nielsen in a packaged format, with a master schedule; the addition of local advertisements and news were at the discretion of the local distributor, often a local television station or cable television provider.

 Network closure
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced plans to shut down both UPN and The WB and launch a new network, The CW in their place. Over the next nine months, it was to be seen which shows from the two networks would cross over to the new CW, as well as which stations across the country would become future affiliates of the new network.

In the end, 7th Heaven, Beauty and the Geek, Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Reba, Smallville, and Supernatural were chosen to move from The WB to the new CW's Fall 2006 schedule. 7th Heaven and Reba were originally canceled after the 2005–06 season, but were ultimately renewed at the last minute with 13-episode deals (the former show was later given a full-season order, while the latter served as a midseason replacement and, in spite of becoming The CW's highest-rated comedy of the 2006–07 season, ended rather abruptly).

Starting on August 14, 2006 with the Daytime WB block, the WB 'bug' was removed from the lower right corner of the TV screen and was replaced with a countdown of days until The CW launched. Some stations which converted to MyNetworkTV or became independent stations received a logo-free feed of the network, while others took the main feed and overlaid their local logo bug over the CW logo.

The WB Television Network closed on Sunday, September 17, 2006 with The Night of Favorites and Farewells, a five-hour block of pilot episodes of their past signature series. Commercial breaks featured reairings of past image campaigns and network promotions. This plan involved promo spots given to the cable networks carrying these shows in off-network syndication, along with ads for each series' TV-on-DVD box set.

The final montage was aired after an old WB promo from the past. Each montage was at least 30 seconds long, while the final montage was about one minute. The montage contained images of actors and actresses that appeared in series aired on The WB over the eleven year run of the network, ending with the words "For 11 years, you brought us into our homes, we made you smile, and tugged at your heart, and now, we say goodbye from all of us at WB. Thank you." The final image was a silhouette of the former WB mascot Michigan J. Frog. At the end of the montage, he was shown taking his hat off and bowing thanking the audience for watching for 11 years and bringing the network to a close. Michigan J. Frog was shown as a silhouette because he retired as the network's mascot in 2005, the year before the network shut down.

After its closure, the network's URLs were redirected to The CW's website. As of March 30, 2008, they redirected to the Warner Bros. Studios homepage. As of April 28, 2008, they now redirect to the Beta.TheWB.com website.

The final night of WB programming netted relatively low ratings. The network scored a 1.0 household rating (1% of total households in the US) and a share of 2, meaning just 2% of viewers were tuned in to WB on its final night. This may mostly be due to certain areas whose The WB affiliates became MyNetworkTV affiliates, leaving The WB's final two weeks of programming unavailable in those areas.

 2008 onward: Entering the Internet
The Warner Bros.' television arm planned on resurrecting the WB Television Network in the form of a website at TheWB.com, the website domain used for the official site of the television network. The site streams free episodes of all WB-aired and produced series during the network's 1995–2006 run, including Gilmore Girls, Smallville, Everwood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, Roswell and What I Like About You.

Warner Bros. also introduced original serialized web-content produced by such television heavyweight producers as Josh Schwartz and McG for the website when it was launched on August 2008, including original series such as Sorority Forever, Pushed, Rockville, CA, The Lake and Childrens Hospital. Many other well-known Warner Bros.-produced series that did not air on the WB Television Network, including Friends and The O.C. are also available. However, the site does not contain episodes of Charmed or Felicity, which were two of WB's most popular shows, as Charmed is owned by CBS Television Distribution and Felicity is owned by Disney-ABC Domestic Television.

The site—which models that of Hulu—is ad-supported and geared primarily to women ages 15–39. In addition to older full-length series, the site features new short series and vignettes. Each of these episode runs 5 minutes, with 10 installments planned. Comcast offers over 1,000 episodes from the Warner Bros. Television library on its video on demand service.


TheWB.com made its official launch on August 27, 2008. While Warner, a division of Time Warner, has not promoted the site in any multimedia ads, it is drawing about 250,000 unique viewers a month, said MindShare’s Mr. Chapman, who has been tracking the site. Some of its original material is being offered on partner sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Data compiled by comScore Video Metrix shows that 62 percent of current visitors to the site are female.

An original series, Sorority Forever, from McG, had its premiere on the site on September 8, 2008. It has recorded more than 7.3 million video views since then from The WB site and partner sites. An original reality series, Rich Girl, Poor Girl from Gary Auerbach, the executive producer of Laguna Beach and Newport Harbor, in which two teenagers from different economic and social backgrounds swap lives , has ranked among the top 100 programs in the teenage category on iTunes since its October 20, 2008 debut.

Internet advertising
The clothing retailer H&M, not a traditional TV advertiser, sponsored Sorority Forever and had some of its clothing worn by characters in the series. Unilever’s Axe brand has sponsored Children's’ Hospital. ”If an advertiser has an interest in a series we have in production, we can work in their products or even adjust our launch dates if they want to tie it in to a special promotion,” said Craig Erwich, executive vice president, Warner Horizon Television, who oversees TheWB.com.

Video on Demand
Series available on Video on Demand include:
  • All of Us
  • Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
  • Martin
  • Jack & Bobby
  • One Tree Hill
  • The O.C.
  • Veronica Mars

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "The WB Television Network", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.