|January 11, 1995|
|September 17, 2006|
|Time Warner (Controlling Partner)|
The Tribune Company
The WB Television Network (commonly shortened to The WB and short for Warner Bros.) was a broadcast television network in the United States, that was launched on January 11, 1995 as a joint venture between the Warner Bros. Entertainment division of Time Warner and the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of the Tribune Company, with the former acting as controlling partner.
The network principally aired programs targeting teenagers and young adults, with the exception of its weekday daytime and Saturday morning program block, Kids' WB, which was geared toward children.
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced plans to shut down the network and launch The CW later that same year. The WB Television Network shut down on September 17, 2006, with select programs from it and UPN (which had shut down two days earlier) moving to The CW when it launched the following day, September 18.
- 1 History
- 2 Animated Programming
- 3 References
Origins (prior to 1995)
Much like its competitor UPN, The WB Television Network was created in reaction primarily to the Federal Communications Commission's new deregulation of media ownership rules that repealed the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, and partly to the success of the upstart Fox and first-run syndicated programming during the late 1980s and early 1990s such as Baywatch, Star Trek: The Next Generation and War of the Worlds, as well as the erosion in ratings suffered by independent television stations due to the growth of cable television and movie rentals. The network can also trace its beginnings to the Prime Time Entertainment Network, a programming service operated as a joint venture between Time Warner and the Chris-Craft Industries group of stations.
On November 2, 1993, the Warner Bros. Entertainment division of Time Warner announced the formation of The WB Television Network, with the Tribune Company holding a minority interest; as such, Tribune Broadcasting signed agreements to affiliate its seven television stations at the time – all of which were independent stations, including the television group's flagship station WGN-TV in Chicago (in a separate agreement signed one month after the announcement of the network's formation), as well as WPIX in New York City and KTLA in Los Angeles – with the network (only five of these stations, along with a sixth that Tribune acquired the following year, would join The WB at launch, as independent stations which the company owned in New Orleans and Atlanta that had originally been tapped to become WB charter stations respectively joined ABC (though WGNO would not switch to that network until January 1996, spending the year prior as a WB affiliate) and CBS as a result of Fox's affiliation deals with the original affiliates of those networks). Although Tribune had a minority stake in the network, its stations were not technically considered owned-and-operated stations of The WB since Time Warner held controlling interest in the network's ownership. In order to give the network time to fill gaps in markets where it was unable to find an affiliate at launch, The WB later announced on December 3, 1993 that WGN-TV's superstation feed would provide additional national distribution for the network as a cable-only affiliate.
When the network was announced, The WB planned to run a predominately network programmed schedule over time. It was originally slated to launch with two nights of primetime programming in the first year; two additional nights of primetime programming, a nightly half-hour in late primetime, 4½ hours of weekday daytime programming and a four-hour Saturday morning children's lineup were slated to launch in the second year; by the third year, a fifth night of primetime and 1½ hours of weekday programming outside of primetime would have been added, followed by an additional hour of programming in primetime and 1½ hours on weekday afternoons by the network's fourth year, and a seventh night of primetime in the fifth year of operation. However, the plan was scaled back dramatically, as The WB launched with only one night of primetime programming; and by September 1995, the network added only one additional night (Sundays), along with a three-hour Saturday morning and one-hour weekday morning children's block.
Warner Bros. Entertainment appointed many former Fox executives to run the network, including the network's original chief executive Jamie Kellner, who served as president of Fox from 1986 to 1993; and president of programming Garth Ancier, who was the programming chief of Fox from 1986 to 1989.
The WB Television Network premiered on January 11, 1995, with the inaugural episode of The Wayans Bros. as its first program. The classic Warner Bros. cartoon character Michigan J. Frog appeared on-air as the network's official mascot (with animator Chuck Jones, in person, drawing him out during the network's premiere), and would remain as part of the network's branding in one form or another until 2005. The WB's scheduling structure was similar to Fox's when it launched, as it started with one night a week of programming (essentially rendering its affiliates as nominal independent stations initially) and then gradually added additional nights of programming over the course of several seasons: the network started with a two-hour Wednesday night lineup of sitcoms, airing from 8:00–10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The network's first programs were mostly sitcoms targeted at an ethnically black audience, though several series during the network's first five years on the air were also targeted at families.
Even though four of the five shows that debuted in the netlet's first nine months – The Wayans Bros., Unhappily Ever After, The Parent 'Hood and Sister, Sister (the latter of which was picked up by the network after being cancelled by ABC) – were renewed beyond the first year, none of them made a significant impact. The WB expanded its programming to Sunday nights for the 1995–1996 season, but none of the new shows (including the Kirk Cameron vehicle Kirk and night-time soap opera Savannah) managed to garner much viewing interest.
The network also launched the Kids' WB programming block in September 1995, which featured a mix of existing Warner Bros. animated series originating either on Fox Kids or in syndication and originally aired on Monday through Saturday mornings. The WB continued to expand in the 1996–1997 season, adding programming on Monday nights. This season gave The WB modest hits in the family drama 7th Heaven and comedies The Steve Harvey Show and The Jamie Foxx Show.
1997–2000: Courting the teen market
The WB first began to experience success with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a series based on the 1992 film of the same name), which became a hit with critics when it premiered as a mid-season replacement in March 1997. It debuted with the highest Monday night ratings in the network's history, attracting not only new teenage viewers, but new advertisers as well.
Inspired by Buffy' s success, The WB intentionally shifted the focus of its programming, trying to capture what it perceived to be a heavily fragmented market by marketing to the under-courted teen demographic. While the Fox network, the previous destination for teen television (with shows such as Beverly Hills, 90210 and Parker Lewis Can't Lose), began to court older audiences with shows such as Ally McBeal, The WB began to craft its identity with programs targeted at teenagers. The network's breakout hit and, arguably, its signature series was Dawson's Creek, which debuted in January 1998 to what were then the highest ratings in the network's history. It quickly became the highest-rated show on television among teenage girls, and the most popular show on The WB. The popularity of the show helped boost the network's other shows, such as Buffy, which served as its lead-in on The WB's new night of programming also launched in January 1998, known as "New Tuesday," and 7th Heaven, which enjoyed a massive 81% increase in viewership that season.
With three hit shows in its roster, The WB continued to build its teen fanbase the following season with college drama Felicity and the wicca-themed Charmed, both of which set new records for the network when they respectively premiered to 7.1 and 7.7 million viewers (Charmed had the highest-rated premiere on the network until Smallville broke its record, debuting to 8.4 million viewers in October 2001). At the start of the 1998–99 season, the network expanded its programming to Thursday nights. That season, 7th Heaven garnered The WB the highest ratings it would ever see – the show's February 8, 1999 episode attracted 12.5 million viewers – and the series overtook Dawson's Creek as the network's highest-rated program.
For the 1999–2000 season, the network expanded once again, adding programming on Friday nights. New shows that season included Roswell, Popular, and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off Angel, the latter of which premiered with 7.5 million viewers – the second-highest rated premiere for the network at the time. During this season, The WB was the only network to have gains in its total audience viewership and in each key demographic.
2000–03: Broadening the focus
As the teen boom of the late 1990s began to wane, The WB attempted to broaden the scope of its primetime lineup. Although teen-oriented fare like Popular and Roswell had premiered to strong ratings, both series saw serious ratings erosion in their sophomore seasons, leading the network to cancel them both (Roswell, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, would end up being revived by rival network UPN). Meanwhile, even though ratings for 7th Heaven, Buffy and Charmed remained consistent, viewership for flagship series such as Felicity and Dawson's Creek began sagging. The network realized that it could no longer rely merely on the tastes of young teenage girls, and thus began moving back into more family-friendly fare, attempting to launch a successful sitcom, and generally targeting a more diverse audience.
This new strategy came as The WB dropped to sixth place in the ratings (behind UPN) during the 1999–2000 season, losing 19% of its household audience; network executives attributed the ratings decline in large part due to the Tribune Company's October 1999 removal of WB network programming from WGN-TV's superstation feed on the pretense that the network's national distribution was large enough that it was no longer necessary for WGN to broadcast The WB's programs outside of Chicago, this effectively reduced The WB's potential household audience by 10 million homes (WGN-TV continued to carry WB programming over-the-air and on cable within the Chicago market until the network shut down in 2006) – the network made several affiliation deals during the prior four years with various station owners (such as the Sinclair Broadcast Group and Pappas Telecasting Companies), buoyed by the September 1998 launch of The WB 100+ Station Group, a national cable-only service that served most of the 110 smallest Nielsen media markets in the United States that did not have enough television stations to support an over-the-air affiliate.
Despite the slight downturn in the network's fortunes, there were a few bright spots during the era. Gilmore Girls, which debuted in 2000, netted meager ratings when it debuted in a tough Thursday timeslot (where it competed against NBC's powerhouse Must See TV lineup), but subsequently grew into one of the network's most successful shows after moving to Tuesdays in 2001, where it remained for seven seasons (moving to The CW for its last season). Also in the fall of 2000, the fantasy sitcom Sabrina, the Teenage Witch moved from ABC to The WB as part of its Friday night schedule; the show continued on the network for three more seasons before ending in May 2003. In October 2001, the Superman-inspired Smallville debuted with 8.4 million viewers, the highest premiere in the history of the network; that show was also important because it was one of the few series that drew a substantial male viewership. 2001 also saw the launch of the Reba McEntire vehicle Reba, arguably the network's most successful comedic series; Reba and Sabrina served as the linchpins for a new Friday night sitcom block that continued for much of the remainder of the network's run (comedies on that night were relegated to one hour in April 2006, with reality series filling the 8:00 p.m. hour). Other series to gain attention during this period were the family drama Everwood, and the short-lived but critically acclaimed soap satire Grosse Pointe.
Time Warner transferred operational duties for The WB from Warner Bros. Entertainment over to its Turner Broadcasting System division in 2001, before reassigning the network's operations back to the Warner Bros. unit in 2003.
Despite some early success, the network struggled to shift its focus from the female 12–24 demographic to the broader 12–34 range. In 2005, the network retired Michigan J. Frog, as the network's trademark mascot. The WB Television Network's then-entertainment president David Janollari, explained in July 2005 at the network's summer press tour that "[Michigan] was a symbol that perpetuated the young-teen feel of the network. That's not the image we [now] want to put to our audience."
Still, the move did not seem to help the network. The period from 2003 to 2005 produced only three viable new series, One Tree Hill, Beauty and the Geek and Supernatural (all of which ultimately moved to successor network The CW), and even still their ratings paled in comparison to the ratings peaks of Dawson's Creek, which had ended its run in May 2003. Ratings dropped for shows like Angel (which was canceled in 2004), and the network failed to launch new hit shows to take their places.
Although The WB's well-known inability to launch successful comedy series was nothing new (Reba being the sole exception), this period saw the network struggling to establish new dramas as well. High-profile failures included Birds of Prey (a series inspired by the Batman mythos, which premiered in September 2003 with an impressive 8 share), Tarzan, Jack & Bobby, The Mountain, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Just Legal, the Marta Kauffman-created Related, and the Rebecca Romijn vehicle Pepper Dennis.
During the 2004–05 season, The WB finished behind rival UPN for the first time in four years, and fell even further behind in the fall of 2005. Both networks fell behind Spanish language network Univision in the overall 18–34 demographic.
2006: Network closure
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced plans to shut down both UPN and The WB and partner to launch a new broadcast television network that would include series from both soon-to-be predecessor networks, known as The CW. Over the next nine months, it was to be seen which shows from the two networks would cross over to The CW, as well as which stations aligned with either UPN or The WB would become future affiliates of the new network. In the end, 7th Heaven, Beauty and the Geek, Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Reba, Smallville and Supernatural were chosen to move from The WB to The CW for its inaugural 2006–07 fall schedule. 7th Heaven and Reba were originally canceled after the 2005–06 season, but were ultimately renewed at the last minute with 13-episode deals (the former show was later given a full-season order, while the latter served as a midseason replacement and, in spite of becoming The CW's highest-rated comedy of the 2006–07 season, ended rather abruptly). Supernatural, which entered its ninth season in 2013, is currently the last surviving series from The WB that remains on the CW network schedule.
Tribune Broadcasting also committed 16 of its 19 WB-affiliated stations at the time to serve as the network's core affiliates (though it relinquished its stake in The WB shortly after the launch announcement for The CW, in order to avoid shouldering shutdown costs for The WB, and would not take on an ownership stake in The CW) – alongside 11 UPN O&Os that were named as CW charter stations by CBS Corporation. Starting on August 14, 2006 with the Daytime WB block, the WB stopped displaying the network's on-screen logo bug and replaced it with a countdown of days until The CW's premiere. Some stations that affiliated with MyNetworkTV (itself created in response to Tribune and CBS receiving affiliation deals with The CW, leaving UPN affiliates owned by Fox Television Stations, a subsidiary of MyNetworkTV's original parent company News Corporation, with the prospect of ending up as independents) or became independent stations received a logo-free feed of the network, while others took the main feed and overlaid the station's own logo bug over The CW's logo.
The WB aired its final night of programming on September 17, 2006 with The Night of Favorites and Farewells, a five-hour block of pilot episodes of the network's past signature series. Commercial breaks featured re-airings of past image campaigns and network promotions, along with promotional spots given to cable networks carrying these shows in off-network syndication and ads for each series' TV-on-DVD box set. The 60-second montage that closed The WB's existence featured many well-known stars from shows that aired during the 11-year run of the network, ending with the statement "For 11 years, you brought us into our homes. We made you smile and tugged at your heart. Faces you'll always remember. Names you'll never forget. The faces that touched our hearts. The WB says goodbye. A Network that defined a generation says goodbye. Join us one last time. And now, we say goodbye. From all of us at The WB, Thank you." The final image seen in the montage was The WB's former mascot Michigan J. Frog (who was shown as a silhouette due to the animated character being retired as the network's mascot the year before), who is shown taking his hat off and bowing, thanking the audience for watching the network for 11 years and marking the end of The WB.
The final night of WB programming netted relatively low ratings. The network scored a 1.0 household rating (amounting to 1% of all U.S. television households) and a share of 2, meaning just 2% of viewers were tuned into The WB on its final night. This is mostly due to the fact that some WB affiliates in certain areas had already joined MyNetworkTV, which debuted two weeks before The CW's launch (on September 5), leaving The WB's final two weeks of programming unavailable in those areas. After its closure, the network's URLs were redirected to The CW's website, cwtv.com. By March 30, 2008, the URLs redirected to the Warner Bros. Studios homepage, before being redirected to the TheWB.com beta website one month later on April 28.
The CW maintained many operational and scheduling elements from The WB; when it launched on September 18, 2006, The CW initially maintained The WB's scheduling model as The WB ran 30 hours of network programming each week (13 of which were devoted to primetime shows) in comparison to UPN's 12 hours of programming weekly (10 hours of which were allocated to primetime shows); it also inherited The WB 100+ Station Group – which became The CW Plus – though the distribution model of The CW Plus started to differ from The WB 100+ by mixing digital subchannel affiliations, alongside the cable-only affiliates and few conventional affiliate stations that were part of the predecessor group at the end of The WB's run. The CW continued the Daytime WB block – which became The CW Daytime (and was reduced from two hours to one in 2010), although two blocks that moved to The CW from The WB would eventually be discontinued: Kids' WB continued on The CW until May 17, 2008, when it was replaced with The CW4Kids after 4Kids Entertainment began programming The CW's Saturday morning block through a time-lease agreement (Kids' WB was later relaunched as an online portal); The CW discontinued its Sunday primetime schedule in September 2009, effectively ending the EasyView block in the process.
- Main article: Kids' WB
The WB debuted the Kids' WB children's program block in September 1995; it initially featured a mix of Warner Bros.' most popular shows (such as Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and later Batman: The Animated Series, all of which originated either on Fox Kids or in syndication) with newer series (such as Freakazoid!, Histeria!, Superman: The Animated Series, Road Rovers, Pinky and the Brain and Batman Beyond). After the Turner Broadcasting System was acquired by Time Warner in 1996, Kids' WB formed a partnership with Cartoon Network, with an increasing amount of programs being shared between the block and the cable channel over time.
In February 1999, Kids' WB began running the American dub of the Japanese animated series Pokémon, The WB acquired the U.S. rights from TV Tokyo earlier that year; the series ultimately became a widespread pop culture phenomenon with the added exposure on the network. Kids' WB also acquired the English-language version of Yu-Gi-Oh!, which also saw the type of viewer popularity experienced by Pokémon. Between 2000 and 2005, Kids' WB experimented with some live-action programming, though it continued to run mainly animated series. A television series adaptation of R. L. Stine's The Nightmare Room debuted on the block in 2001, it was cancelled after one season. It also aired the live-action made-for-TV movie Zolar, as well as the JammX Kids All-Star dance specials.
With Cartoon Network now outrating Fox Kids and The WB sharing more of its children's programming with the cable channel, The WB announced on May 31, 2005 that it would discontinue Kids' WB's weekday afternoon block, as it became financially unattractive due to broadcast stations shifting their afternoon target audiences more exclusively to adults by filling the slot with talk shows and sitcom reruns, on the basis that children's viewing options in that time period had gravitated more towards cable television. Kids' WB's weekday programming continued, but with redundant programs and theme weeks until December 30, 2005 (the block began to increasingly promote Cartoon Network's afternoon Miguzi block and the Kids' WB Saturday morning lineup during the transition). The weekday block was replaced by called "Daytime WB" on January 2, 2006, a block that featured repeats of sitcoms and drama series formerly aired by The WB and other networks (such as ER, 8 Simple Rules and What I Like About You); five days later on January 7, the Kids' WB Saturday morning lineup was expanded by one hour.
The Daytime WB block continued on The CW, unofficially renamed The CW Daytime (though occasional on-air promos for the block do not refer to this name), The CW also kept the Kids' WB name for the network's Saturday morning children's programming. However on October 2, 2007, The CW announced that it would discontinue the Kids' WB block, due to competition with youth-oriented cable channels. Kids' WB aired for the last time on May 17, 2008, replaced with a new block programmed in conjunction with 4Kids Entertainment called The CW4Kids (which was replaced by Vortexx in September 2012, after Saban Brands and Kidsco Media Ventures took over programming the block as part of its acquisition of much of 4Kids's program library). As a result of its distribution deal with The CW, 4Kids ran Saturday morning blocks for two networks during the 2008–09 season, as it already programmed Fox's 4Kids TV block (which ended on December 27, 2008).
- Baby Blues (2000)
- Mission Hill (1999-2000)
- The Oblongs (2001)
- The PJs (2000-2001)
By Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Bros. Television
- Animaniacs (1995–1999)
- The Batman (2004–2008)
- Batman: The Animated Series (1997–2000)
- Batman Beyond (1999–2001)
- Bugs N' Daffy (1996–1999)
- The Cat&Birdy Warneroonie PinkyBrainy Big Cartoonie Show (1999–2000)
- The Daffy Duck Show (1996–1997)
- Coconut Fred's Fruit Salad Island (2005–2006)
- Detention (1999–2001)
- Freakazoid! (1995–1997)
- Histeria! (1998–2001)
- Johnny Test (2005–2008)
- Krypto the Superdog (2006–2007)
- Legion of Super Heroes (2006–2008)
- Loonatics Unleashed (2005–2007)
- Monster Allergy (2005)
- ¡Mucha Lucha! (2002–2005)
- The Nightmare Room (2001–2002)
- Ozzy & Drix (2002–2004)
- Pinky and the Brain (1995–1998)
- Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain (1998–1999)
- Road Rovers (1996–1997)
- Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! (2006–2008)
- Static Shock (2000–2004)
- Superman: The Animated Series (1996–2000)
- The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries (1995–2001)
- Teen Titans (2003–2008)
- That's Warner Bros.! (1995–1996)
- Tiny Toon Adventures (1997–2000)
- Tom and Jerry Tales (2006–2008)
- Waynehead (1996–1997)
- What's New, Scooby-Doo? (2002–2005)
- Xiaolin Showdown (2003–2006)
- The Zeta Project (2001–2002)
- Codename: Kids Next Door (2004)
- Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends (2005)
- The Powerpuff Girls (2002)
- Samurai Jack (2001)
- The All-New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1997–1998)
- The New Scooby-Doo Movies
- Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo
- The Scooby-Doo Show
- Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
By Sony Pictures Animation
- Channel Umptee-3 (1997–1998)
- Generation O! (2000–2001)
- Jackie Chan Adventures (2000–2005)
- Men in Black: The Series (1997–2001)
- Phantom Investigators (2002)
By 4Kids Entertainment
- Pokémon (1999–2006)
- Cubix: Robots for Everyone (2001–2003)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! (2001–2006)
- Chamber Quest (2002-2004)
- Astro Boy (2004)
- Cardcaptor Sakura (2000–2001)
- Dino Galactic (2002-2004)
- Dragon Ball Z (2001)
- MegaMan NT Warrior (2003–2005)
- Sailor Moon (2001)
- Spider Riders (2006–2007)
- Transformers: Cybertron (2005–2006)
- Viewtiful Joe (2005–2006)
From Marvel Animation
- The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008)
- X-Men: Evolution (2000–2003)
From Cookie Jar Group
- World of Quest (2008)
- Magi-Nation (2007–2008)
- Johnny Test (2005–2008)
- Spider Riders (2006–2007)
- Will and Dewitt (2007–2008)
- Brats of the Lost Nebula (1998)
- Da Boom Crew (2004–2005)
- Earthworm Jim (1995–1997)
- Eon Kid (2007–2008)
- Invasion America (1998)
- The Legend of Calamity Jane (1997)
- Max Steel (2000–2002)
- Machine Quest from Chinese (2006-2007)
- Monster Allergy (2006–2007)
- The Mummy: The Animated Series (2001–2003)
- Rescue Heroes: Global Response Team (2001–2003)
- Skunk Fu! (2007–2008)
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