Broadcasting unit rebranding affiliates

As the CW preps for what could be its make-or-break season, Tribune Broadcasting has thrown a wrench into the net’s branding efforts.

Over the past few weeks, Tribune’s station group has scrubbed the network’s name off most of its 13 CW affils. Instead, the company, whose stations are CW’s most crucial affils in top markets, is introducing new station identities without the CW moniker and is de-emphasizing the network affiliation on its station websites.

In Houston, Tribune even changed the station’s call letters, from KHCW to KIAH, removing the CW’s name in the process (that station, once known as “CW39,” now just calls itself “Channel 39″). In Dallas, what had been known as “CW33″ is now being called “The 33.” Tribune’s Washington station, which had referred to itself as “CW50,” is now “DC50.” 

Move reps the latest salvo from Tribune in what’s become an increasingly strained relationship between the Sam Zell-led company and the CW. Tribune earlier dropped the CW from its San Diego station in favor of Fox (although the CW ultimately benefited by trading up to a VHF outlet there). Tribune was also instrumental in driving CW’s partnership with financier-producer Media Rights Capital to take over the CW’s Sunday-night lineup.

Adding insult to injury for the CW is that Tribune is so far still utilizing the News Corp.-approved logo and brand for its two MyNetworkTV affils, in Seattle and Philadelphia.

As of now, Tribune’s New York flagship, WPIX, is still calling itself “CW11″ — at least online — but the CW brand is harder to find on the redesigned websites for L.A.’s KTLA and Chicago’s WGN.

The CW-free rebranding effort comes as Tribune Broadcasting continues to make changes under new prexy Ed Wilson. Decision to rebrand the Trib stations also is reminiscent of News Corp.’s quick move to strip UPN’s name off its affils soon after CBS announced plans to merge UPN with Time Warner’s WB to create CW in early 2006.

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