This is not your daughter’s WB: Net execs want to change the perception that the Frog attracts only female teens.
Meeting with reporters Wednesday for the WB’s portion of the summer TV critics press tour, CEO Garth Ancier and incoming entertainment prexy David Janollari said they’re making an effort to make the Frog more adult-friendly by showcasing more of the net’s older stars.
Indeed, photos of grownup Frog stars like Christine Lahti, Jeff Foxworthy and Gerald McRaney were prominently displayed alongside the net’s usual crop of up-and-coming teeny boppers.
“To the degree that we pretty much presented ourselves as a teen network, that was a large mistake on our part,” Ancier said, telling critics that the net now wants to “invite more viewers into the tent.”
When asked about the change, Janollari added, “It’s a new day.”
That also extends to the WB’s fall schedule, which includes several series that don’t jibe with the net’s youth-oriented brand — including Foxworthy’s sketch comedy “Blue Collar TV” and the gamer “Studio 7.”
But with the net suffering ratings declines last season, Ancier admitted that the Frog net had become too “derivative” in recent years — perhaps running one too many teen dramas in the vein of “Dawson’s Creek” or franchise adaptations inspired by the success of “Smallville.”
“We were making shows that were clones of each other,” he said. “We got a bit stale as a network. We’re trying to address it by trying to break the mold and trying to create a network that doesn’t look the same every hour you’re on.”
Just as he and former WB Entertainment prexy Jordan Levin did at last May’s upfront presentations, Ancier also blamed some of last season’s ratings woes on the Frog’s late entry into the reality game.
“When we did reality, it was too derivative,” he said. Janollari’s “challenge is to find a fresher way to do reality. That’s hard, because everybody is doing a lot of it.”
WB also took some knocks for the lack of ethnic diversity on its fall sked. Of all its programs, just one — variety skein “Steve Harvey’s Big Time” — includes a minority in a lead role.
“It wasn’t a strategy to have a less diverse schedule,” Ancier said. “We’re openly not happy about the lack of diversity on our schedule … This will be a more diverse network a year from now,” he vowed.
“We’re living in a much more ethnically mixed country right now,” Janollari said. “We have to put it on the screen.”
Asked to comment on the raging controversy — milked by NBC and ABC this week — on whether it’s OK for a net like Fox to rush on a copycat reality show before the original hits the air, Ancier said he had no problem with the practice — as long as the net didn’t take a pitch meeting and then create a facsimile of its own.
“It’s business as usual in TV land,” he said. Referring to his own scripted series “Jack and Bobby,” “If they want to do ‘George W. and Jeb,’ that’s fine. It comes down to execution.”
Meanwhile, Tribune — which holds a minority stake in the net and owns the Frog’s key major-market affiliates — has quietly extended its current pact with the WB. The Tribune-WB deal was originally set to expire this year.
In other press tour news:
- Contrary to persistent rumor, Janollari said he had no plans to alter the WB’s current programming team. Talk had previously swirled around potential changes in the net’s comedy department.
“I’m quite fond of all our development executives,” he said. “There are no changes to be made. I fully endorse everyone here.”
- Janollari also said he and former Greenblatt/Janollari Studios partner Bob Greenblatt are still in the process of deciding the fate of their production company (“Six Feet Under,” “Eve”). The two spent last weekend packing up boxes in their old offices at Sunset-Gower Studios.
- Frog announced its fall rollout: Sundays launch Sept. 12, followed by Mondays on Sept. 13, Fridays on Sept. 17, Tuesdays on Sept. 21 and Wednesdays on Sept. 22.
As previously announced, Thursday skeins “Studio 7” and “Blue Collar TV” bow July 22 and 29, respectively. The night’s third show, “Drew Carey’s Green Screen,” joins the lineup Sept. 16.