NEW YORK — Warner Bros. has bought syndicated programming from Studios USA, Western Intl., Bohbot Entertainment and Steven Cannell to flesh out its 24-hour WeB service.
The studio sells the WeB, which kicks off Sept. 21, to cable systems in markets too small to have viable TV stations for the WB Network to affiliate with (from the 100th largest all the way down to the 210th). The WeB offers strong inducements to cable operators to set aside a channel, including a share of the advertising revenues and access to WB Network programming that’s creating a buzz, like “Dawson’s Creek,” “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and the highly touted rookie series “Felicity.”
Warner Bros. had previously reported it would surround the WB Network’s schedule with such Warners’ syndicated shows as “Friends” reruns, which will play weeknights at 7 and 7:30; “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” weeknights at 10; the double run of a new five-a-week version of “Love Connection” at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.; and the rookie strip “Change of Heart” at 6:30 and 11:30.
Studios USA is supplying “Quincy” mornings at 9; the “Knight Rider” strip at noon; and five-a-week half-hours of “Major Dad” and “My Secret Identity” at 1 and 1:30 p.m.
Two once-a-week action hours come from Western Intl.: “Conan the Adventurer” and “Acapulco H.E.A.T.” Bobbot’s kid shows on the WeB include the morning strip “Pocket Dragon Adventures” and an animated version of “Jumanji” at 2:20 p.m. Cannell series include “Wiseguy,” “Hawkeye” and “Booker.”
Except for “Rosie,” the distributors of programs on the WeB schedule have deliberately avoided selling them to individual TV stations in markets smaller than the 100th largest.
For “Rosie,” Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Communications, a firm that advises TV-station clients on their program schedules, says stations in smaller markets are unhappy about losing their exclusivity to a channel on the local cable system.
But Warner Bros. has mollified these stations somewhat, Carroll says, by slotting “Rosie” at 10 p.m. in the 1998-99 schedule, and guaranteeing that it won’t strip the show earlier than 6 p.m. That strategy provides at least partial exclusivity because TV stations strip the show between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Lynn Stepanian, VP of programming for the WeB, says Warner Bros. has signed up a number of cable operators to cover the WB Network in markets below 100, including Tele-Communications Inc. and Time Warner, the two biggest, plus Century, Midcontinent, Chambers, Fanch, Greater Media, Harron and TCA.
The WeB follows the pattern of the 24-hour Fox Net, which surrounds the network programming from Fox with an array of syndicated shows for cable systems in markets without a Fox TV-station affiliate.