This article was updated at 5:41 p.m.
There’s one less top frog at the WB, as Jed Petrick announced plans Tuesday to exit his post as the net’s president and chief operating officer.
Petrick, who will depart in April, was one of the WB’s early architects, helping win the network crucial support from advertisers and bringing home the industry’s top upfront sales hikes for six consecutive years.
He joined the WB under founder Jamie Kellner (with whom he worked at Fox) in 1994, prior to the net’s launch.
Petrick’s decision to leave comes just four months after the WB elevated Jordan Levin and Garth Ancier to succeed Kellner in the top CEO and chairman positions, respectively. Petrick, who was named prexy-chief operating officer in 2001, had been a candidate for the top slot as well.
But Petrick contended that he wasn’t leaving because of the post-Kellner restructuring — and that he hadn’t been surprised or disappointed by the ultimate hierarchy.
“I saw this coming and I told Jordan back in March that I’d be happy to work for him,” Petrick said. “Obviously Jordan was in line for the job, and rightfully so. This is a creative business we’re working in, this is a network built on strong scripted shows, and that’s what he does…. My side of the business is the blocking and tackling. I understand that, I like that.”
Still, at the same time, Petrick said he also got the itch to start pursuing other opportunities.
“This decision has been made after too many sleepless nights and much soul searching,” he said. “I am a builder and I love startup businesses. The WB, as a startup, was a blast, just like the early days of Fox. (But) I have had many interesting opportunities cross my desk that I couldn’t act upon but they certainly caught my attention and intrigue.”
As a result, the exec declined overtures in September to extend his contract and instead began pondering his future.
“I want to be an owner, I don’t want to be a slave,” said Petrick, aping Barry Diller’s famous quote. “I have a chance now to be more than an employee… I’ve been with the company nine years. For me it’s time to try something new.
“The pace of change in our business has increased dramatically, with technology driving it,” Petrick said. “You can sit there and get worried about change or you can do something impactful.”
Next step uncertain
Petrick said he hasn’t decided what that next step might be, but he compares his status to Kellner’s following that exec’s departure from Fox, also as chief operating officer. Kellner, of course, took some time off but quickly returned to the industry and launched the Frog.
“The job (Jed) did surpassed even my greatest expectations,” said Kellner, who officially exits the WB in May. “I’m sure he will work the same magic in his next business adventure that he has demonstrated with me for the past 15 years.”
Petrick, who still had two years left with his contract, requested an early ankle right before the holiday season. Levin, to whom Petrick reported, said he reluctantly approved the departure.
“Without his vision, business acumen and stellar relationships, we would not be where we are today,” Levin said. “When he approached me right before the holidays to tell me of his desire to pursue new challenges, I was surprised and disappointed, but we didn’t want to stand in his way. He was my partner for the past three years and I will miss him greatly.”
Won’t be replaced
Petrick joined the WB as head of the net’s media sales division. He won’t be replaced; instead, most of his reports — including ad sales, standards and practices, Kids’ WB and research — will fall under Levin. Ancier will now oversee distribution issues (including affiliates and the net’s 100+ Station Group).
Besides steering the net’s sales division, Petrick helped bring the net’s Kids WB block to dominance by bringing the hit “Pokemon” to the network. Petrick also created the network’s “Easy View” programming block, negotiating a deal with affiliates to air repurposed episodes of WB dramas on Sunday evenings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Before joining the WB, Petrick was vice president of sales at the Baseball Network and created his own sports marketing company. Besides Fox, his resume includes stints at CBS, where he began his TV career, and Grey Advertising.