WARNER BROS., TRIBUNE BROADCASTING & JAMIE KELLNER TO LAUNCH WB NETWORK IN 1994
BURBANK, Calif., Nov. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Warner Bros. and Jamie Kellner confirmed the formation of a joint venture to create the WB Network, a new broad-based broadcast network that will launch Fall 1994 and announced that Tribune Broadcasting will be its flagship affiliate, said Robert A. Daly, chairman and chief executive officer and Barry M. Meyer, executive vice president, Warner Bros. and Kellner, chief executive of WB Network. "Warner Bros. is bullish about the future of broadcast television, and owning and operating a national distribution system and being in business with Jamie Kellner and Tribune Broadcasting is no small part of that optimism," said Daly. "A national distribution outlet, not only complements our current television operations, but also gives us the opportunity to profit from the original broadcast of programs." "The audience demand for original, high-quality programming is as great as ever," said Meyer. "We believe the WB Network will also be of great value to broadcasters and producers. For independent stations, affiliation has proven to be an advantage in promotion and programming, and ultimately, profitability; for producers, an additional outlet for programs provides new opportunities and new shelfspace." The expected launch coverage for WB is 85 percent of U.S. households (75 percent from broadcast stations and 10 percent from WEB, a unique cable network). Eleven station groups, representing 40 percent coverage of the country, have already committed to WB. The groups joining Tribune are: Gaylord Broadcasting, Pacific FM Inc., Gannett Broadcasting Group, Renaissance Communications, Koplar Communications, Meredith Broadcasting, Press Television Corp., ACT III Broadcasting, Pappas Telecasting Companies and Lambert Television, with further station groups and stations to be announced shortly. "We are truly privileged to have Tribune as the WB anchor," added Daly. "Tribune's management and broadcasting accomplishments are unparalleled in the industry. They don't come any better than Jim Dowdle and the team he has assembled over their long and successful history." Tribune Broadcasting has committed all the stations they currently own as well as those they may acquire prior to launch. "We totally support the belief that there is room for only one more network, and we believe Warner Bros. and Jamie are the ones to do it," said James C. Dowdle, president and chief executive officer, Tribune Broadcasting Co. "When you look at the current broadcast environment, and project into the future, aligning with a network is simply a matter of good business sense, even for the strongest independent," added Dennis FitzSimons, president, Tribune Television. "There is only one person who has the experience, the expertise and the credibility to build a new network ... that's Jamie Kellner," said Daly. "Kellner not only guided the creation and launch of FOX, but he also established relationships with broadcasters, cablecasters, advertisers, analysts and producers that are unmatched in the industry." "A quick look at the marketplace makes it quite apparent that there is room for one, and only one, more advertiser-supported broadcast network," said Kellner. "Seven years ago, skeptics questioned the likelihood of support from stations, advertisers, Hollywood and viewers for a fourth network. Today, there are four profitable, competitive networks. I contend, with loyal stations, good programs and the support of Warner Bros. and Tribune, our company has an excellent opportunity to give the American television audience a fifth choice. "As the plan developed to build this network, the key was building a partnership that could compete long term. In every combination, Warner Bros. stood out as the best partner. Warner Bros. has the resources, the track record in all facets of entertainment, the vision and kind of long-term thinking that it takes to succeed, the creativity and innovation to push the envelope if necessary, the acumen to support a decision, the faith in its people to let them do their jobs and an unwavering loyalty absent from many big companies. Warner Bros. is clearly the class of the industry." The WB launch plan calls for a five-year rollout starting with two primetime nights (8-10 p.m.); adding two nights of primetime, an unprecedented late prime half-hour strip, four and a half hours of daytime Monday-Friday and four hours on Saturday mornings in year two; adding the fifth primetime night and an hour and a half of non-primetime Monday through Friday in year three; adding another hour of primetime and a weekday afternoon hour and a half in year four; and in year five adding the seventh primetime night. WB is being designed to appeal to a broad-based audience with an underlying emphasis on the 18-49 demographic as well as children and families. Providing quality programming for kids, in the finest tradition of Warner Bros. and Warner Bros. Animation, is an extremely important element of WB's schedule. WB will focus on children's programming in early morning, afternoon and early primetime timeslots, and will create a special environment for children. Programming will be selected solely based on quality and potential for success. WB will look to all sources in the creative community for development and production of its program schedule. Development budgets, license fees and other terms will generally be equivalent to other networks. Warner Bros. has committed to a business plan that supports WB development, production and marketing expenditures at levels equal to or greater than other national networks. While specific program announcements will not be made at this time, such current Warner Bros. producers as Steven Spielberg, Witt-Thomas and Miller-Boyett, to name a few, have already expressed great interest in producing programs for WB. "Warner Bros. gave me the opportunity to try my hand at television animation (`Tiny Toons' and `Animaniacs')," said Spielberg. "The experience and the results have been extraordinarily gratifying and successful. I am totally committed to the form and am looking forward to producing as many animated programs as WB will allow." Advertising revenue is critical to the success of any network. "I've talked to numerous advertising agencies as well as to advertisers themselves, and they assure me our philosophy continues to be accurate -- advertisers, like audiences are drawn to programs not call letters," added Kellner. "If you make the right programs and market them so they can be found, the audience will come and so will the advertising dollars." One of the most unique elements of the WB plan deals with distribution into the "white areas" (markets without a broadcast outlet). Serving this 25 percent of U.S. households in an efficient and competitive distribution system is one of the key challenges in establishing a profitable network. Known for being one of the first "cable friendly" broadcasters, Kellner has devised a plan that not only brings cable operators together in a cooperative manner, but also partners them with broadcasters for mutual profitability. In white areas, WB programs will be seen exclusively through WEB cable affiliates. These affiliates will be an extension service of an existing global broadcaster and will provide all the same services to WB as they do to their primary network, except they will not broadcast, they will cablecast. Thanks to technological advances pioneered by Time Warner for its Full-Service Network, WB can penetrate the white areas, interconnect cable systems and simultaneously present local commercials on WEB cable stations in each specific ADI market. WEB's launch will be concurrent with WB, and will offer 19 hours of programming (7 days a week, from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.), including simulcasting the entire WB schedule by Fall 1995. During the first year, WEB (whose affiliates also hold an affiliation with either ABC, CBS, NBC or FOX) will offer the four hours of WB debut primetime programs during Saturday and Sunday fringe over their broadcast facility. "It has long been our belief that we can expand the scope of our programming beyond producing first-run programming for others and licensing for rebroadcast," said Meyer. "We are confident that we can create a profitable business based on the original broadcast of programs. However, WB will not alter how we conduct our current television business. Our production companies (network, first-run syndication and animation) will continue to actively develop and produce high-quality programming for all networks and all outlets. "As longtime industry leaders in all facets of television, Warner Bros. is uniquely positioned to create a fifth network. Warner Bros. has the resources, the programming expertise, capacity and facilities, the distribution and marketing know-how, the broadcast experience, the advanced technology, the founding president of the Fox Broadcasting Co., Jamie Kellner, at the helm of WB, and the pre-eminent station group, Tribune Broadcasting, as the core WB affiliate." Warner Bros. is (and has been for the past seven years) the No. 1 supplier of primetime programming, is the leading producer of animated programming (currently responsible for the three top-rated daytime strips) and is a leading supplier of first-run syndicated programs. The various Warner Bros. production entities are responsible for 36 hours of original programming per week, which includes 14 hours per week of primetime series. Kellner joins WB after some seven years as the president and chief operating officer of Fox Broadcasting Co., where he spearheaded the creation and launch of the Fox Network. He was not only responsible for building FBC's affiliate base, but also for establishing the sales, marketing and programming strategies as well as the Fox Children's Network and the 5 million-kids-strong Fox Kid's Club and Fox NET (an exclusive cable service). Prior to joining Fox, Kellner served as president of Orion Entertainment Group, where he supervised the operations of the network programming, home video, pay television and domestic syndication divisions. -0- 11/2/93 /CONTACT: Barbara Brogliatti, 818-954-7667/
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