The WB Television Network
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505
Tel: 818 977 0018
Fax: 818 977 5523
The WB Television Network, casually referred to as The WB, or sometimes as The Frog (referring to the network's former mascot, the animated character Michigan J. Frog), is a television network in the United States, founded as a joint venture between the Warner Bros. film studio and Tribune Company on January 11, 1995.
The WB has helped to launch the careers of a number of Hollywood stars, including Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Katie Holmes (Dawson's Creek), Jessica Biel (7th Heaven), Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill), Holly Marie Combs (Charmed), James Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek), and Michelle Williams (Dawson's Creek).
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced plans to launch The CW in the fall of 2006. This new joint venture network will feature programming from both The WB and UPN. CBS chairman Les Moonves and Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Barry Meyer announced that The WB and UPN will both cease independent operations at that time.
The WB will be expected to be shut down on September 17, 2006 followed by the opening of The CW Network.
Much like its competitor UPN, the WB was a reaction to the success of the upstart Fox Network and first-run syndicated programming during the late 1980s and early 1990s such as Baywatch, as well as the erosion in ratings suffered by independent television stations due to the growth of cable television and movie rentals. WB's first programs were mostly sitcoms targeted at an ethnicly diverse audience. Even though three of the inaugural four shows were renewed beyond the first year, none of them made a significant impact. The WB also added the "Kids' WB" programming block, which mixed Warners' biggest hit shows (Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs and later Batman: The Animated Series, all of which originated either on Fox, Fox Kids or in syndication) with new productions and original shows.
A few years after its launch, The WB intentionally shifted its programming to capture what it perceived to be a heavily fragmented market by marketing to the under-courted teen demographic. While the Fox Network was intentionally targeting older audiences with shows such as Ally McBeal, The WB's breakout hits during the late 1990s centered around teen drama with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson's Creek in primetime. Charmed, Felicity, and Angel, three of The WB's major hits, were some of their more adult shows, which were both aired in prime time, as well. These shows, along with 7th Heaven, The WB's biggest success ever, were the major key shows that launched The WB into the spotlight, and not far afterwards, The WB Network was ranked #1 among teenage audiences.
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 WB was carried by 177 VHF and UHF stations in the U.S., counting both owned-and-operated and affiliated stations (the owned and operated stations are not actually operated by Warner Bros. or Time Warner; instead, Tribune owns and operates these stations, thus its stake in the network). The WB can 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 are at the discretion of the local distributor, often a local television station.
Outside of the aforementioned series, other large successes include Gilmore Girls, Smallville, and its only hit sitcom, Reba. Its most successful TV show to date is the religious family drama 7th Heaven, which aired its tenth season during the 2005/2006 season. The network has suffered in the ratings of late after its peak in the 2001/2002 season as it struggles to launch and brand unique new series, something which it previously had no problem doing. 2003-2005 produced only one viable new series, One Tree Hill, and even that is a pale comparison to the ratings peaks of Dawson's Creek and the like. As a result, the network is shifting its focus from the female 18-24 demographic to the more broad 18–34 range. To this end, The WB has abandoned its trademark mascot, Michigan J. Frog, as the network's iconic emblem. WB Entertainment President David Janollari explained in July at the network's summer 2005 press tour, that the animated character "perpetuated the young-teen feel of the network, and that is not the image we want to put to our audience."
During the 2004/2005 season, The WB finished behind rival UPN for the first time in several years, and fell even further behind in the fall of 2005.
The WB will close their network on Sunday, September 17, with a five-hour block of pilot episodes of their past signature series, including Felicity, Angel, Buffy (which was a two-hour episode) and Dawson's Creek, and during commercial breaks, re-airings of past image campaigns and network promotions. This plan will involve promo spots given to the cable networks currently carrying these shows in off-network syndication, along with ads for each series' TV-on-DVD box set. UPN's last-night plans are currently unknown.
The WB added the Kids' WB! programming block, following its launch, which mixed Warners' biggest hit shows (Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs and later Batman: The Animated Series, all of which originated either on Fox, Fox Kids or in syndication) with new productions and original shows.
After the Turner–Time Warner merger in 1996, Kids' WB! formed an alliance with Cartoon Network, and over time, they have shared more and more programming.
In September, 1998, The WB also launched the American version of Pokémon in the Kids' WB! blocks, which they acquired from syndication (TV Tokyo) earlier that year and became a widespread pop-culture phenomenon. WB also acquired the English-language version of the second series Yu-Gi-Oh!.
The Kids' WB! has aired mainly animated series but has aired some live-action programming. Kids' WB! aired a television version of R.L. Stine's The Nightmare Room in 2001, though it didn't make it past a season. They also aired a live-action movie known as Zolar, as well as the JammX Kids All-Star Dance Specials.
In January, 2006, the weekday afternoon block of Kids' WB! was replaced by Daytime WB, which is composed of the syndication of ER and 8 Simple Rules. The Kids' WB block expanded by one hour on Saturdays from 7a.m. to noon. As a result, most WB affiliates air syndicated programming from DiC Entertainment on Weekday mornings.
Kids' WB! will make the move to The CW in September, 2006 keeping the Kids' WB! name.
Some Fox stations decide to pass Fox's 4Kids Entertainment block to a The WB station in their market so the Fox affiliate can air general entertainment or local news programming on Saturday mornings. WJW 8 in Cleveland, for example, has recently moved the 4KidsTV schedule to The WB affiliate WBNX-TV Channel 55, while Channel 8 airs news and children's programming in place of the shows. KSAZ-TV, one of the New World Communications stations (former New World stations make up most of the Fox O&Os that pass on the 4Kids block) originally gave it to KTVK. KTVK entered into an LMA with current WB/CW affiliate KASW when it signed on in September of 1995, and the WB programming (which KTVK carried), Kids' WB, and 4Kids TV (which was then Fox Kids) slid onto KASW's lineup, as well as overflow from KTVK's large programming library. It is possible, though, that when My Network TV starts, Fox-owned KUTP could take the block.
When The WB was launched during the mid-1990s, the network began branding most of its stations as "WB" or "The WB", then the channel number, with the call signs nearby. The call signs were minimized to the smallest FCC-approved size by the end of the decade. This meant that, for example, WPIX in New York and KPLR in St. Louis were now both referred to as "WB11". Fox originated such naming schemes, and CBS uses the "CBS Mandate" on all of their O&O stations. NBC and ABC utilize similar, but less extreme, naming schemes.
While Fox and UPN mandate their respective naming schemes on all stations, The WB does not.
Thus, not all WB affiliates follow the naming scheme. WGN-TV in Chicago (on the local feed only as the superstation feed has not carried WB programming since 1999) uses the name "WGN 9 Chicago" in its ID with The WB's logo next to the boxed "9". Most of Tribune's WB affiliates only use the network logo in their station's logo or use "The WB" name after the calls. An example is Los Angeles affiliate KTLA, whose station ID is "KTLA, The WB".
Most WB affiliates also have another standardization name branding scheme: (City name)'s WB. For example, KHCW (formerly KHWB) in Houston is called "Houston's WB," WATL in Atlanta is called "Atlanta's WB," and WDCW (former WBDC) in Washington, D.C. is called "Washington's WB." Some stations following this scheme may use a regional name instead of a specific city, such as "Capital Region's WB" for WCWN in Albany, New York (formerly WEWB), or East Tennessee's WB for WBXX in Knoxville, TN while others incorporate the channel number, such as WPHL-TV in Philadelphia ("Philadelphia's WB17"). That leaves Dallas-Fort Worth station KDAF as the only Tribune-owned station to stick with the network and number branding as WB 33 to this day. Many WB 100+ stations also follow either one of these three variations on the "The City's WB" scheme.