Together with Tribune's 16 major market stations and 12 CBS-owned stations in such markets as San Francisco and Sacramento, the new network will be available in 48% of the country the moment it launches, executives said. The network's distribution is expected to eventually reach about 95% of the nation's TVs through a patchwork of stations owned by other companies.
The WB and UPN will continue to operate separately through August. But Meyer said it was important to announce the deal now, at the beginning of the television industry's pilot pickup season, to "avoid duplicate development," and tens of millions of dollars of programming costs.
Nancy Tellem, CBS Paramount television chief, and Bruce Rosenblum, Warner Bros. Television Group president, will have oversight of the new network. UPN President Dawn Ostroff will become entertainment president while John Maatta, chief operating officer of the WB, will assume the same role at the new network. The WB advertising chief Bill Morningstar will become head of sales.
When the two networks launched as fierce competitors in 1995, "it was a different day and age," said Jay Sures, a partner of United Talent Agency. "No one expected that there would be 250 channels and all of these distribution platforms, everything from cellphones, the Internet, Apple iPods and digital video recorders."
But especially since Moonves took over the troubled UPN in 2002, the two networks found themselves scrapping for the same core audience: young women from 18 to 34 years old.
Meyer said for movie companies, such as his own Warner Bros. film studio, and other advertisers who target the youth market, the joint venture would be an enticing advertising buy.
"The CW will be able to draw on two great production companies, Warner Bros. Television Production and CBS Paramount Television," Meyer said. "We'll have a more valuable platform for marketing to young demographics."
The deal comes less than a month after Nielsen Media Research began including Spanish-language networks in its rankings. That change allowed Los Angeles-based Univision Communications Inc. to jockey with the WB and UPN in overall ratings, a psychological blow to the two smaller networks that had long competed against one another for fifth place behind CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC.
Existing agreements with major entities, such as Nielsen Media Research, still need to be sorted out. Similarly, the fate of shows not owned by the two companies, such as "Reba," produced by 20th Century Fox Television studio, is up in the air, as they will have to compete for a spot on the network.
What is not up for discussion, Moonves said, is the network's new name. Asked why it wasn't called CWB, he said, "That sounded too much like the WB network or CNBC. And we couldn't call it the WC for obvious reasons."