Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The End of UPN and the WB?

Today CBS Corp. (which owns UPN) and Time Warner Inc. (which owns the WB) announced that they plan to close UPN and the WB, with plans to open a new network in the fall. The new network (called the CW) will be operated jointly by CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc. in a 50/50 deal.

To tell you the truth, I am not surprised by this news. Neither UPN nor the WB have made tons of money in their nearly eleven years of existence. In fact, in the wake of the closing of the two networks, CBS CEO Les Moonves stated that they were reaching a point where they hoped UPN would break even. And neither network has performed particularly well in the ratings. The WB has has a few hits in its history--Dawson's Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer come to mind. UPN has done even worse. Aside from Star Trek: Voyager, I don't know that any series on that network has done particularly well. Even Star Trek: Enterprise died on the vine.

While I can understand the reasons why CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc. would want to combine their networks, I find myself not much liking the idea. I have fond memories of both UPN and the WB. UPN was the network on which I watched Nowhere Man, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. The WB was the network on which I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Too, it seems to me that the past fifty years the entertainment industry has become less and less diviserfied. The television networks, movie studios, and so on have increasingly fell into the hands of a few large conglomerates. I don't think this is necessarily a desirable situation. It seems to me that with fewer networks, fewer studios, we also get less variety. With the demise of UPN and the WB, it seems to me that we will have two less television networks, to be replaced only by one. Once more, we have less variety.

Of course, as I said, I can see the reasons for CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc. doing this. Quite simply, neither network was making money. It will be interesting to see how it works out. I have to wonder what shows the two networks will keep (I rather suspect most of UPN's lineup will go). And I have to wonder if over the years they will ever be able to challenge ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. At any rate, I think the move will guarantee the survival of the new network, whereas I think UPN may well have been destined for obscurity.

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