Network still trying to find niche

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’When the Fox network was launched two decades ago – a scrappy underdog taking on the Big Three – it was able to announce its presence quickly with such edgy shows as “Married, With Children” and “21 Jump Street.” But that was 20 long years ago, an eternity in a rapidly changing television business where CBS, ABC and NBC are far from the only television viewing options. A hybrid of failed mini-networks The WB and UPN, the CW’s prime-time lineup consists of mainly WB and UPN holdovers that have had mostly lackluster starts. “It could be better, it could be worse,” television maven Marc Berman of mediaweek.com said of the ratings. “They must come out with new programming, get new shows on the air. They need to show that, Hey, we are the real deal, we got new stuff and are building on what we have.” With such shows as “Smallville,” “Veronica Mars,” “Supernatural” and “Friday Night Smackdown” experiencing only slight week-to-week gains, only the reality series “America’s Next Top Model” qualifies as a real hit. The show has managed to increase its ratings from its days on UPN to beat all the networks in the coveted 18-34 female demographic. “The success of `Top Model’ does indicate for The CW that viewers are aware of them now,” Berman said. “It’s not an easy process,” Berman said. “Although The CW is the same channel as WB was in L.A., a lot of channels changed in other markets. So initially, that’s the obstacle they face. A lot of people still don’t know that some of their favorite shows are back.” BURBANK It’s not so easy launching a new broadcast network these days. Just ask the folks who run The CW. In the network’s first month on the airwaves, its entire Sunday night schedule was shifted to Monday, ratings are mostly so-so, and The CW is still trying to establish a cohesive identity that appeals to females between the ages of 18 and 34. “We’ve had our challenges and our work cut out for us,” acknowledged CW spokesman Paul Maguire. “Both Sunday and Monday started slowly and we felt we had to make an immediate change.” In contrast to “Top Model,” “7th Heaven,” long The WB’s biggest hit and a Monday night staple, took a major hit in the ratings after being moved to its current Sunday night slot. “Heaven,” saved from cancellation at the last minute, had opened the season in its familiar Monday night home. But it was quickly forced to sacrifice that slot in order to make room for a block of comedies including UPN alums “Everybody Loves Chris,” “Girlfriends,” and “All of Us,” which had been tanking badly on Sunday nights. “UPN had done very well on Mondays,” Maguire said. “We are hopeful that `7th Heaven’ viewers will find it on Sunday. Our Sunday and Monday is kind of our flash point right now.” Such a major schedule overhaul can be a promotional nightmare. “It’s very confusing for the viewer because all summer long they had been promoting the comedies being on Sunday and `7th Heaven’ still on Mondays and within a few weeks, they are turning things around,” Berman said. “They need to educate viewers on where to find their shows.” It’s confusing for viewers such as 31-year-old Manjula Patel – representing The CW’s ideal demographic. “I was like, What is this? I wasn’t sure what channel had changed and where `America’s Next Top Model’ was so I just kept changing the channel until I found it,” Patel said last week during a lunch break from her job at HealthNet in Woodland Hills. “Yesterday I watched `One Tree Hill’ after (`Top Model’). It’s bad because you get glued to the television.” Girls’ go-to network Patel is exactly the kind of viewer The CW wants as it attempts to carve out an identity as the go-to network for women into their mid-30s who enjoy such shows as “Top Model,” “Gilmore Girls” and “7th Heaven.” Patel’s co-worker, 27-year-old Anjana Lalla, said even the commercials are appealing. “They are geared to young women, they’re all about fashion and cosmetics,” she said. Woodland Hills resident Renee Flores, 20, is pleased with the merger because “I don’t have to worry about switching channels. I had watched `America’s Next Top Model’ and `Girlfriends’ (on UPN) and `7th Heaven’ and `Gilmore Girls’ (on WB).” CBS, which owned UPN, and Warner Bros. Entertainment each own half of the new network with the name coming from the initials of both companies. The network offers 13 hours of prime-time programming Monday through Friday. Shows produced for The CW are jointly owned by the production arms of both companies. “It’s like two poor people getting married: once they get married, they are still poor,” said Robert Thompson, head of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. “The two networks were really struggling and it made the most sense to take the best performers and shows with at least some kind of fan base. What The CW desperately needs is a couple of big hits. They need their `Simpsons’ and `Married with Children,’ their `Dawson’s Creek.’ It would have been better to have had some new developed shows as opposed to bringing back struggling ones,” Thompson said. As for programming reinforcements, the former WB Reba McEntire sitcom “Reba,” also initially canceled, returns to the airwaves midseason as does another season of “Beauty and the Geek” and the new eight-episode reality series “In Search of the Next Pussycat Doll.” “We have some things on the bench and many, many projects in development for next year,” Maguire said. “It was our intentional plan to begin the network with known shows knowing full well there is new development and programming to come. We probably would have started with far lower weekly ratings.” Stay tuned Maguire acknowledges that The CW has a challenge trying to tap into a fickle demographic. That is why some shows such as “America’s Next Top Model” got more promotion than shows such as “Girlfriends,” whose creator, Mara Brock Akil, has publicly complained about unequal promotion for her show and its new spin-off, “The Game.” “It’s become a situation where you can’t spend equally on every show, you have to make choices. You can’t hit every show as hard as you’d like,” Maguire said. Despite the early season schedule moves and heavy scrutiny, Maguire professes that all is going according to plan and that the network is especially pleased that, three weeks into the season, The CW has improved over WB’s and UPN’s numbers in the 18-34 category. “We expected to start slow and we are looking at this long term,” he said. “In May, we expect to be about where UPN or WB were in terms of (overall) ratings. We’ve started off OK, we’ve had as few bumps. There’s a lot of viewers just finding our shows.” [email protected] (818) 713-3758160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img