Jim has already taken time from his busy day to make fun of The CW’s name. I will take the time to, well, think about what the merger of UPN and The WB means. First off, the fact that UPN and WB merged has absolutely no impact on me. None. Not one little bit.
Granted, I’m not the target demographic, but it’s been a long time since I tied my television watching to a specific channel/time. In fact, the time was when I coerced the husband into HBO because I was going to watch The Sopranos or else. Since then (and before), we rely on TiVo to capture programs by title. It doesn’t matter to us when it airs or what channel it’s on. This is a very important thing to note — even my mother has a DVR. Sure, she needs my little sister to program it, but mom is a fast learner. All it takes is a show she doesn’t want to miss.
According to Les Moonves, head mucky muck of CBS, this merger will create a powerful fifth network. This begs the question: does the world need a fifth network? In addition to all the basic and pay cable channels? What does a fifth network have to offer the world (except for the great Everybody Hates Chris)*? Well, it’s obvious:
The CW will clearly be greater than the sum of its parts — serving the public with high-quality programming, maintaining our ongoing commitment to minority audiences and delivering excellent demographics to advertisers. Additionally, The CW will be able to draw from the creative talent and production resources from the top two television production studios in the business, while also seeking programming from all sources — independent producers or other studios.
While the newly formed network (I am not seeing a time where I will say The CW without thinking Carsey-Werner, but that’s me) will have fairly good national coverage, but will that address the core issues the two networks faced? I’m not the only media analyst asking that question. From the AP story on the launch of The CW:
However, it’s not yet clear that the combination of two struggling networks will result in a strong one, or even one that is a money-winner. Hal Vogel, a longtime media analyst and author of a book on entertainment industry economics, called the combination “inevitable,” saying “these companies were not making money for anybody.”
“Chances are, in five years they may not exist at all, or it may be something else, but right now it’s better than going alone,” Vogel said. “This makes sense — it’s not a slam-dunk proposition, but it makes sense. Six networks was too many.”
All snarkiness aside (for the moment), smaller, more agile networks are better positioned to take advantage of new media opportunities. The bigger networks have longstanding, deep-rooted advertising relationships. If The CW (still not flowing off the keyboard like it should) is smart, it will be able to structure talent and advertising deals to maximize downloadable services like iTunes. Sure, this might require some creative rethinking of franchise agreements, but conventional wisdom states that local television stations will survive by doing one thing very well: providing local-oriented content.
The fifth network also holds another advantage over its competition: freedom. It can air edgier, more innovative series. It can play with the traditional series model: The Office (UK version) didn’t require 22 episodes every year to make a strong impression and fairly decent money. Risk is what is required for this experiment to succeed. Playing it safe will guarantee that Hal Vogel’s prediction will come true. We don’t need a fifth network as much as we need interesting, thought-provoking, buzz-building programming.
Getting back to what I do best now. My favorite part of the CBS memo? The fact that Sumner Redstone was CC’d. Like, what are they thinking? That maybe he didn’t know about this, but might like to feel like he’s being kept in the loop?
* – Yes, Jim, I see your hand. Also, Veronica Mars — we still have that queued up on the TiVo for a series get-to-know Veronica marathon.
- Breaking: UPN And The WB Merge Into New Fifth Place Network (Special thanks to Defamer for reprinting the official corporate memo/press releases. Saves so much time when all the information is in one place)
- Making The CW: The Warner Bros. Memo
- UPN, WB to Shut Down; New Network Formed (The accompanying photo is priceless in light of The CW’s stated goal of targeting younger and minority viewers)