Kellner reups at WB

Top Frog stays as netlet fights ratings erosion

NEW ORLEANS — The WB head frog Jamie Kellner has sealed a new deal with the netlet, keeping him in charge for another three to five years.

Some industry observers had expected WB CEO Kellner to consider departing the day-to-day operation of the WB in order to focus on his lucrative Acme station group.

But Kellner said he wanted to navigate the network through the rough waters of the coming digital age.

“I like a fight, and the next few years are going to be a fight,” Kellner said.

Kellner announced his decision at the WB’s winter affiliates meeting Tuesday, telling station execs that he was “delighted to be continuing on for a number of years.”

Long run

Kellner remains one of the longest-tenured chiefs at any of the networks, having spent 14 of the last 15 years as a web topper. He served seven years at Fox as prexy and chief operating officer, from 1986 to 1993, and officially joined the WB in January 1994.

Meeting for the first time since the loss of WGN Cable put a dent in the WB’s ratings, the Frog’s affils were strongly advised by Kellner to pump more money into marketing.

“It’s not a question of underspending, but they need to spend even more,” Kellner said.

Noting that the netlet still has a lot of “immature distribution,” Kellner said more stations need to migrate to down to channels 2 through 13 on cable systems and aggressively buy radio time and outdoor ads.

“We’ve got to get closer to parity with the big guys if we want to beat them,” he said.

Noting that this was the first affiliates meeting where the WB couldn’t crow about ratings growth, Kellner said he’s baffled as to why 80% of the viewers who used to watch the WB on WGN haven’t migrated to their local WB station.

“For whatever reason, there’s an enormous disruption,” he said.

The WB’s national coverage dropped from 92% to 81% on Oct. 7, when WGN Cable dropped its feed of the WB’s lineup. But the network didn’t place all of the blame on WGN. The expansion to Friday alone would have driven the WB downward.

“We’re just not used to not growing,” Kellner said. “In some ways, it’s good — it smacks your face a bit.”

Leveraging a name

Kellner said the WB is still developing a portal on the Web that would leverage the WB’s name to draw in young adults.

There’s no timetable yet as to when the WB might launch its vertical youth portal, which would be located at thewb.com.

“We speak to more young people every day,” Kellner said. “We have a brand to use on the ‘Net and an opportunity to do things other guys don’t have.”

In other news, the WB confirmed it has a “light family reality” pilot in the works from Hat Trick Prods. for a midseason berth if necessary.

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