News

WGN Drops WB, Adds Movies, Sitcoms

9/19/1999 8:00 PM Eastern

As expected, WGN this fall is replacing its morning and
primetime programming from The WB Television Network with theatrical movies, off-network
sitcoms and a new weekly daytime show hosted by Richard Simmons.

WGN's new fall lineup, which kicks off today (Sept. 20),
will include series such as Caroline in the City, The Lost World, The
Parent'Hood
, Wayans Brothers, Full House, The Cosby Show and
Fresh Prince of Bel Air
.

The schedule will also include Dream Maker, a new
show during which exercise-fitness guru Simmons helps people to fulfill their dreams. It
will air at 11 a.m. weekdays.

In addition to those changes, WGN has assembled a group of
high-profile theatricals that it will air at 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays starting
Oct. 7.

Some of the titles are Raiders of the Lost Ark, Basic Instinct and The
Naked Gun
, with upcoming features including L.A. Confidential, Twister, The
Devil's Advocate
and Grumpier Old Men. WGN's position is that surveys showed
that subscribers want more movies.

"We have been building to get replacements for The WB
programming," said Derk Tenzythoff, vice president of programming services for UVTV,
the network-provider company that markets WGN. "We really wanted to go back to
primetime movies."

He maintained that WGN and The WB mutually agreed to the
superstation's decision to stop carrying The WB's morning and primetime programming --
fare that includes such popular shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 7th Heaven and
kids' hit Pokemon.

A WB spokesman agreed that the decision was mutual, adding
that it was preordained that WGN wouldn't air The WB shows indefinitely.

When The WB launched in 1995, it agreed to have WGN air
some of its programming in order to fill in its national distribution on a short-term
basis, the spokesman added.

Some cable operators haven't been keen on WGN -- which
televises a heavy dose of Chicago professional sports -- airing The WB programming because
they already have WB TV-station affiliates in their markets and they don't like that
duplication.

And the overlap was about to increase because The WB is
adding a sixth night of programming.

"We'll replace all of The WB [primetime] product with
movies," Tenzythoff said. "Then suddenly, there is no duplicated
programming."

The WB also has an arrangement in smaller markets called
The WB 100+ Station Group, which is a local-cable-delivered station group affiliated with
The WB. In those small DMAs, cable subscribers get The WB programming on cable channels.

But Tenzythoff said there are some DMAs that don't have a
WB affiliate or a WB 100+ agreement, so viewers in those markets will suddenly be cut off
from popular shows such as Buffy.

Those markets include West Palm Beach, Fla.; South Bend,
Ind.; Richmond, Va.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Flint, Mich.; Lexington, Ky.; Green Bay, Wis.; and
Springfield, Mo.

WGN and The WB are trying to work with cable operators in
those markets to resolve the problem, WB executive vice president of distribution Ken
Werner said.

One possibility is that The WB could offer cable systems a
feed of its network programming that could air on a local or public-access channel. That's
a short-term solution that The WB is discussing with the three cable operators with
systems in West Palm Beach -- Adelphia Communications Corp., Comcast Corp. and AT&T
Broadband & Internet Services -- according to Werner.

In South Bend, the ABC affiliate -- a low-power TV station
-- also has a license for a second low-power station in that DMA. It wants to make that
second station a WB affiliate, but its signal would need cable carriage to get wide
coverage in the market, Werner said. So the broadcaster is talking with the cable operator
in that market, AT&T Broadband, about getting cable carriage for that WB low-power
station.

WGN is owned by Tribune Co., which owns 25 percent of The
WB, Tenzythoff said.

During the past few years WGN has become increasingly
aggressive in terms of bidding for off-network shows, getting windows on sitcoms such as Caroline
and Suddenly Susan before Lifetime Television, for example, and Full House and
Fresh Prince before Nickelodeon. WGN will start airing reruns of Susan,
Clueless
and 7th Heaven next year.

WGN, which reaches 50 million homes, is also continuing its
commitment to sports programming. It televises 162 live sporting events per year: 92
Chicago Cubs and 55 White Sox Major League Baseball games, and 15 Chicago Bulls National
Basketball Association games.

Full House, Cosby, The Parent'Hood, Wayans
Brothers
and Fresh Prince will air from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays on WGN. Then
WGN will strip two episodes per night of Caroline from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The
superstation is looking to reach kids, teens and stay-at-home women during the day.

In the morning, when The WB's kids' shows aired, WGN is
scheduling sitcoms such as The Parent'Hood, Family Matters and Cosby.
Hawaii Five-O
and MacGyver air in the early afternoon.

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