Can the CW make TV a five horse race?
The new network created from the merger of the UPN and WB is hoping to catch up to big boys ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC with a focus on younger viewers.
By Paul R. La Monica, CNNMoney.com senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Media giants CBS and Time Warner are hoping that one plus one will add up to five.

The two companies, which announced in January that they were merging their UPN and WB networks to create a new network called the CW, unveiled the fall schedule for the CW on Thursday at an event in New York. Time Warner (Research) also owns CNNMoney.com.

Say goodbye to the WB and UPN: The new CW unveiled its 2006-2007 lineup featuring six shows from the old WB and six from UPN.
Say goodbye to the WB and UPN: The new CW unveiled its 2006-2007 lineup featuring six shows from the old WB and six from UPN.
Sitcom
Sitcom "Everybody Hates Chris" made it to the CW lineup...
...and so did the
...and so did the "Gilmore Girls."
More about the TV biz
ABC and NBC are both planning to put high profile shows up against CBS' monster hit "CSI." Who will emerge victorious? (more)
The Peacock Network is having ratings problems, but executives painted a rosy picture for the new season at the 'upfront' with a lineup heavy on new dramas. (more)
Heading into the TV upfront presentations, here are five key issues that will be on the minds of network execs and advertisers (more)
Media experts debate whether ABC's decision to put hit shows online for free will really shake up the television industry. (more)

Despite several hits, neither UPN nor WB ever became more than a niche network catering largely to younger viewers and, in the case of the UPN, an African-American audience. Ratings for the two networks separately paled in comparison to those of the big four networks: ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

But executives from the CW expressed optimism at the network's first upfront presentation for advertisers, noting they took the best shows from both UPN and WB to create their new lineup.

"Determining this lineup was like playing fantasy football but with TV shows," said Dawn Ostroff, CW head of entertainment, at the upfront event.

The 2006-2007 schedule for the CW includes six popular shows from the old WB and six from the UPN, including "Everybody Hates Chris," "Veronica Mars," "Smallville" and "The Gilmore Girls." Only two new shows will debut on the CW this fall.

"The CW is one of the big boys from the get-go," said Bill Morningstar, the executive vice president of national sales for the CW.

Greater than the sum of its parts?

Several industry analysts also said that they liked what they saw.

"It looks like they put together a strong lineup. The network should do better together than the UPN and WB did separately," said Mark Fratrik, vice president with BIA Financial Network, a strategic consulting firm for the media and communications industries.

During the presentation, Ostroff also highlighted how viewers will be able to view CW shows and related content through the Web, cell phones and on Apple's iPod media player. Ostroff added that the CW's Web site will feature several interactive and social networking elements catering to the network's mostly younger audience.

She also introduced a concept that the network called "content wraps": mini-shows that would appear three times a night during commercials that could be sponsored by advertisers and feature product promotion.

Each "content wrap" would tell a story. The example Ostroff gave was of two people going on a blind date.

One media buyer said that the concept was interesting and that if done effectively could keep viewers from using digital video recorders (DVRs) to fast forward through ads.

"The content wraps looked smart. It's the type of opportunity that marketers want," said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of corporate research for Horizon Media, a marketing firm. He added that younger viewers in particular may be interested in these types of mini-shows.

And along those lines, Ostroff said the CW intends to have a "laser-focus" on the 18-34 year old demographic and claimed that it is the only network with such a commitment to this group.

News Corp. could be tough competition

That is a matter of debate, though. On Tuesday, News Corp. (Research) showcased the programs for its new network called MyNetworkTV.

MyNetworkTV, like the CW, has agreements with affiliate stations which will allow it to reach more than 90 percent of the country and will be exclusively showing soap operas on a nightly basis that feature mostly young casts and appears to be targeted at exactly the same audience the CW is going after.

Nonetheless, Adgate said that the CW probably should fare well as it begins to negotiate with marketers for ad commitments. But he thinks advertisers shouldn't expect a runaway ratings surge overnight.

"The CW should do very well in the upfront. There a lot of advertisers that want to go after 18-34 year olds," Adgate said. "But I don't think the CW will necessarily double its ratings because of the merger."

One factor that could cause the CW some ratings trouble is tough competition from that other network owned by News Corp: Fox. It also has a strong focus on younger viewers.

Fox unveiled its fall lineup on Thursday morning as well and it will show previews of new shows to advertisers on Thursday afternoon. Fox is the last of the six prime-time networks to make its upfront presentation.

Fox, which is currently riding high in the 18-49 demographic thanks to hits such as "House," "24," "Prison Break" and some show called "American Idol," is bringing back most of this year's successful lineup. It is introducing only five new shows for the fall.

The only network that had a lower amount of turnover was CBS (Research), which announced on Wednesday that it was adding only four new shows to its fall roster.

-----------------

For a look at media and entertainment stocks, click here.

For FORTUNE's special coverage of the future of Hollywood, click here.

The reporter of this story owns shares of Time Warner through his company's 401(k) plan. Top of page

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Television
Ratings
CBS
Time Warner
Manage alerts | What is this?

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.