Tribune stations are downplaying CW affiliation

September 03, 2008|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

The CW television network launched its new fall prime-time season with some of its highest ratings Monday night, but not before its TV station partner, Tribune Co., took steps to downplay its association with the youth-oriented network.

Chicago-based Tribune, which also owns the Los Angeles Times, has begun redesigning some of its websites, including that of KTLA-TV Channel 5 in Los Angeles, by dropping the CW network brand and instead focusing on its local identity.

The moves underscore the uneasy alliance between Tribune, which is under pressure to boost revenue amid a slowdown in advertising, and the CW, which failed last season to attract a large audience.

The CW's pursuit of young viewers clashes with Tribune's focus on its newscasts, which generate most of its TV stations' revenue and appeal to older viewers. Tribune switched affiliation from CW to Fox Broadcasting Co. at its San Diego station this year, leaving 13 of 23 Tribune stations still airing CW programs.

Tribune said the station re-branding, first reported by Hollywood publication Variety, was not a slight to the CW. KTLA and many of the Tribune station websites prominently promoted "90210," which launched Tuesday, and "Gossip Girl," which delivered strong ratings Monday in key demographic groups.

The CW, a joint venture between Time Warner Inc. and CBS Corp., began its third season Monday with encouraging ratings. It is betting big on "90210," a remake of the 1990s Fox hit "Beverly Hills 90210."

"We want the prime-time programming rolling out this week, and in the coming weeks, to be successful. We need it to be successful," Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said.

The CW declined to comment.


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