All change Stateside
2 Sep 2006 0 comments. tbs.pm/2111
It isn’t often that US television networks go off the air. But it happened in September 2006.
This September, two networks – Time Warner’s WB and CBS Corporation’s UPN – closed down, then united as The CW. It was the first time a broadcast television network has ceased operations since the DuMont Network in the 1950s. Programming for the new network will consist of the ‘best’ programmes from the departing parents, along with a few original sitcoms and hour-long dramas.
The 28 January announcement of The CW was followed days later by an announcement from News Corporation, parent company of the Fox Network, who announced the September launch of another new network, called MyNetworkTV. MyNetwork will attempt to innovate broadcast television with the “telenovela,” a term borrowed by Spanish-language networks. A telenovela is essentially a soap opera aired daily (in MyNet’s case, five days a week with an hour-long recap on Saturdays) whose story will reach a natural ending after a given period of time, to be replaced by another self-contained storyline. For at least the first year, two telenovelas, “Desire” and “Fashion House,” will be the only programming MyNetwork will offer.
It will be a confusing time for American viewers. A network is aired locally by an ‘affiliate,’ the US equivalent of an ITV regional franchise. With the WB and UPN, an area generally had six affiliates, one for each network, plus at least one independent station which created its own programming schedule. In the case of the WB, many of their former affiliates were offered first crack at contracting with The CW. Before MyNetwork was announced, UPN stations found themselves without a network or source of peak time ad revenue in the future. Some of those stations pointedly dropped all UPN programming and identification, only to re-align with MyNetworkTV a few weeks later. In other cases, both stations were left out of the deal altogether, reverting to independent status. And two stations, one in Austin TX, the other in Iowa City, signed up to carry both new networks back-to-back.
In the old days, the closedown of an ITV franchise was a must-watch event, with pomp, circumstance, and maybe even a tear or two. Certainly the final moments of transmission were the most dramatic, as were the handovers to new franchisees moments or hours later. Unfortunately, American broadcasters don’t seem to have the same pride in the history of their networks. Then again, they don’t come and go all too often. The kiss-off of WB and UPN will likely be less than spectacular. In the months following the bombshell announcement, the networks have given up on original promotional ads, instead re-cycling the same announcement: “On the WB Tuesday, a full night of Gilmore Girls,” for example. UPN is expected to air its usual wrestling programme “Smackdown!” on Friday, 15 September, and say nothing as they sign off. The WB, however, has planned a tribute. Throughout its final night on 17 September, the network will re-air the programmes which made it a success, teen dramas Dawson’s Creek, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Felicity, and also show old image campaignsusually clips of network stars dancing to a youth-themed song, then say a final goodbye after the last credit rolls.
Aside from that, the channel carrying the new network will, in most cases, remain the same, as will the ownership of the station. Even most of the daytime and late-night programming syndicated on these stations will stay in place. There will just be an influx of name changes. Take for instance Dallas, Texas. KDAF, WB 33 has already begun telling viewers to keep watching “The Future Home of CW 33.” Former UPN station KTXA will become “As Independent as Texas” when it becomes “TXA-21” in September, and former independent KDFI (owned by News Corporation) has already transformed into “My 27.”
In the meantime, a sign of what’s to come has begun airing on other future CW stations across the country: flashing green and orange stripes, a garish discotheque font for a logo, and a mix of former UPN and WB stars, dancing to a hip-hop beat and the words of The Black-Eyed Peas’ Fergie: “Get ready, ‘cos here we come.”
Visit “The CW”‘s web site (opens in a new window).
As many surmised, the networks had their own ways of closing down. UPN did absolutely nothing on their final night, even going so far as to not air the closing credits of their final transmission of SmackDown. In fact, the only way to know what had happened was to go to the network’s website, where photos and Flash advertisements for programming had all been replaced by giant UPN symbols.
The WB, however, lived up to their promise to a fitting tribute throughout their final “Big Sunday” lineup. During commercial breaks, a series of spots aired under the banner “Faces You’ll Always Remember,” from the stars of Dawson’s Creek, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and others. Each twenty-second montage was backed by the words of Crawl’s touching song “This Way.” But it was the final sixty seconds of air on the WB which many applaud, and which hearken back to a similar closedown by one Thames Television.
The minute-long piece was again backed by the aforementioned song, with no announcers, no sound effects, just the Faces of The WB, a silhouetted Michigan J. Frog mascot taking a final bow, and the following legend:
“For 11 years, you brough us into your homes. We made you smile and tugged at your heart. And now, we say goodbye. From all of us at the WB…