HOLLYWOOD — Despite losing signature drama “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to UPN, Frog net execs believe the WB hasn’t missed a beat in its quest to be the top choice for young female viewers.
Addressing journos gathered for the semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, WB officials said they weren’t concerned with season-to-date Nielsen numbers showing the Frog down 13% in viewers 12-34. Instead, they pointed to continued revenue gains that could result in the WB’s first annual profit this year, as well as the successful launch of Tuesday drama “Smallville” and frosh laffer “Reba.”
“Winning to us is succeeding with our plan,” said WB Entertainment prexy Jordan Levin. “Our goals for this season were to reinvigorate and freshen Tuesday night and break a comedy, and we’ve accomplished both.”
Levin announced second-season renewals for “Smallville” and “Reba” as well as “Smallville” companion “Gilmore Girls.”
Ironically, one of the skeins picked up for next season — “Reba” — comes from 20th Century Fox Television, a studio the WB is no longer developing new series with. Frog ended its relationship with 20th last year after the two were unable to agree on new licensing terms, including a plan to repeat WB programming on AOL Time Warner cable nets.
But Turner topper Jamie Kellner, who also oversees the WB, hinted at a possible thaw with 20th, saying, “I hope we can do business with Fox.”
However, Kellner, Levin and WB prexy-chief operating officer Jed Petrick all were solid in supporting repeats of WB programming on cable nets within days of their broadcast premiere. Kellner said early evidence showed viewers tuning into “Charmed” on TNT were different from those who watched on the WB.
“Showing programs once a week … is a very old-fashioned way of providing entertainment through a television set,” he said. “We have a different model.”
Some advertisers have resisted the WB’s efforts to sell “Charmed” repeats at higher-than-usual rates, while some studio execs — including those at WB cousin Warner Bros. TV — have fretted that repurposing will damage a show’s potential backend revenue. Kellner said those up in arms over the WB’s moves should calm down.
“It’s only an experiment,” he said. “Let’s see if it works, and then we’ll deploy it.”