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Broadcast TV: The WB

Net says numbers don't add up

Kiss the Frog. Please.

Execs at the WB are still scratching their head at the net’s disappointing fall numbers. While they admit that some of it may be their own doing, the numbers still don’t add up.

WB co-CEO Jordan Levin says he’s waiting to get a better sense of how Nielsen Media Research’s methodology changes affected his network’s ratings. “It’s been a very confusing season, in large part due to Nielsen,” he says. “What I find frustrating is this shift in methodology is probably going to cost the broadcast networks roughly about a billion dollars over the course of a season.

“But that’s not to mitigate the fact that a lot of new programming didn’t work.”

The WB ended the 2002-03 season on an upbeat note, having launched a successful drama, “Everwood,” and scoring reality hits with “The Surreal Life” and “High School Reunion.” And net brass was looking forward to focusing the fall launch around a fresh take on the “Tarzan” mythology.

But “Tarzan” quickly slipped from the vines. And the network faced a tough November sweep: It was off by 17% among 18-34, while its vet skeins were down more than 20% year to year with viewers.

On the bright side, net continued to grow its comedy presence, and newcomer “One Tree Hill”– quickly scheduled when “Fearless” fell out — has demonstrated some encouraging numbers.

Behind the scenes, the man who launched the network, Jamie Kellner, officially announced plans to retire, as he stepped down from running Turner in February. Warner Bros.’ Barry Meyer resumed oversight of the network, while Kellner’s successors, co-CEOs Levin and Garth Ancier, were announced in September. They’ll officially assume all Kellner’s duties in May.

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