WB accent on drama

Ad buyers love fall youth fare over 5 nights

NEW YORK — The no-longer fledgling WB Network on Tuesday officially took the wraps off a 1999-2000 sked that, while chiefly aimed at spreading the net’s boffo success with youth-aimed dramas to five nights, promises to further erode Big Four viewership on at least two other evenings.

In a tight two-hour presentation to advertisers that emphasized clips over charts, WB execs outlined a fall lineup that has at its core the move of key sophomore dramas “Charmed” and “Felicity” to Thursday and Sunday nights, where they’ll be paired with new dramas “Popular” and “Jack and Jill,” respectively.

While Thursdays and Sundays are among the most heavily viewed for network television, WB has not been as successful luring its core youth aud on those nights. WB schedulers are hoping the success they’ve had with dramas Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays can be expanded to Thursdays and Sundays, where the net is betting it will be able to establish “appointment” viewing beachheads.

Laffer lineup

The net’s other key shift is the consolidation of its eight comedies on two nights last fall to just four laffers, all urban-skewing, on WB’s expansion night of Friday. The netlet will fill the night with returning comedies “The Steve Harvey Show” (8 p.m.), “For Your Love” (8:30) and “The Jamie Foxx Show” (9:30 p.m.) plus new animated comedy skein “The Downtowners” (9 p.m.).

“We have a schedule that we believe builds on our current momentum,” WB Entertainment prexy Susanne Daniels told ad buyers .The Thursday pairing of “Popular” and “Charmed” from 8-10 p.m. marks the WB’s first serious head-on challenge to NBC’s young demo dominance of the night. The 9 p.m. scheduling of “Charmed,” a surprise WB hit this season, also could prove particularly problematic for ABC, which will launch its own twentysomething-targeted drama “Wasteland,” from “Dawson’s Creek” creator Kevin Williamson.

Advertisers seemed impressed by the new lineup.

‘Found their niche’

“I think they’ve left themselves in a pretty damn good position,” said Aaron Cohen, exec VP/director of broadcast for Horizon Media. “They seem to have found their niche.”

Despite the addition of four new hours to a 13-hour sked, the WB lineup maintains a sense of stability by anchoring each night with an existing success.

In addition to “Felicity” on Sunday and “Charmed” on Thursday, WB will keep “7th Heaven” on Monday, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Tuesday and “Dawson’s Creek” on Wednesday. In addition, the new dramas Monday (“Safe Harbor”) and Tuesday (“Angel”) come from the same producers as their respective lead-ins.

The one wild card in the sked may be the aliens-in-high-school drama “Roswell,” which originally was developed for Fox, but was snapped up by the WB at the last minute. Its sci-fi undertones had some ad buyers wondering about its placement with “Dawson’s.”