WB, Spelling: ‘Love’ lost

WB's negative press release raises UPN temperatures

Execs at Spelling Television were not amused by a press release issued by the WB network last week attacking the performance of Aaron Spelling’s updated version of “The Love Boat” for UPN.

Spelling, the venerable producer of one of the WB’s top-rated series, “7th Heaven,” and WB pilots “Rescue 77” and “Charmed Life,” sent what sources described as a scathing letter to the netlet complaining about the shoddy treatment.

One exec at Spelling called the WB press move “a tacky and terrible misjudgment,” while a separate source there described it as “stupid and obnoxious” and added, “We had a really nasty confrontation.”

Instant apology

Even prior to receiving Spelling’s terse missive, the WB spokesman had apologized to UPN’s spokesman for issuing the press release, which was titled ” ‘The Love Boat’ in week 3 continues to sink” and included a barb saying the show “was supposed to bring new life to UPN.”

In a return letter to Spelling, the WB exec responsible wrote that he regretted his decision and vowed not to do it again. “My competitiveness got the best of me,” the letter said.

Moving on

Aaron Spelling did not return phone calls seeking comment, but sources at his company said the prompt apology would likely be sufficient and they are trying to put the incident behind them. UPN declined to comment.

Despite “The Love Boat’s” drop from its strong premiere, execs at UPN remain happy with the series, which has helped improve ratings for the Monday 8 p.m. timeslot average this season.

Ironically, the WB’s public relations assault against UPN comes at a time when the Big Four networks are attempting a ceasefire of sorts from the backbiting and the negative ratings spin against their broadcast brethren.

NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer recently called a meeting with the entertainment chiefs at Fox, CBS and ABC to discuss ways they can work together and present a unified front against cable. The public relations executives at the four webs followed up with a conference call of their own.

Netlets UPN and the WB were not invited to those meetings, even though the WB is arguably the worst offender in terms of negative spin. WB executives regularly state that they believe UPN will go out of business, and they often send the press lengthy comparisons of the two netlets’ finances, ratings and distribution.

Former UPN CEO Lucie Salhany also was known for her attacks on the WB. At her last meeting with UPN affiliates, for instance, she wore a pin of the WB’s frog logo with a dagger through its chest.

When UPN CEO Dean Valentine first joined the netlet late last year, he vowed to put a stop to the bloodsport between the two netlets, but so far the WB hasn’t obliged.

According to one Spelling executive, “It appears that the WB has an obsession with UPN that’s corporate in origin.”