WB Television Network

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The WB Television Network
Type Broadcast television network
Country United States
Availability National
Owner Time Warner (64%), Tribune Company (25%), Jamie Kellner (11%) [1]
Key people David Janollari, President
Launch March, 1995
Past Names (none)
Website www.thewb.com

The WB Television Network, casually referred to as The WB, is a television network in the United States, founded as a joint venture between the Warner Bros. film studio and Tribune Company on January 11, 1995. The network is typically referred to as The WB or sometimes as The Frog (referring to the network's former mascot, the animated character Michigan J. Frog).

The WB has helped to launch the careers of several Hollywood stars, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Katie Holmes, Jessica Biel, Chad Michael Murray, Ashlee Simpson, and James Van Der Beek.


Much like its competitor UPN, the WB was a reaction to the success of the upstart Fox Network and first-run syndicated programming during the late 1980s and early 1990s such as Baywatch, as well as the erosion in ratings suffered by independent television stations due to the growth of cable television and movie rentals. WB's first programs were sitcoms and other cheaply produced fare, mostly targeted at an ethnic audience. Even though three of the inaugural four shows were renewed beyond the first year, none of them made a significant impact. The WB also added the "Kids' WB" programming block, which mixed Warners' biggest hit shows (Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs and later Batman: The Animated Series, all of which originated either on Fox, Fox Kids or in syndication) with new productions and original shows.

After the TurnerTime Warner merger in 1996, Kids' WB formed an alliance with Cartoon Network, and over time, they have shared more and more programming. Beginning in fall 2006, Kids' WB will be replaced by reruns of the sitcom Reba and ER.

A few years after its launch, The WB intentionally shifted its programming to capture what it perceived to be a heavily fragmented market by marketing to the under-courted teen demographic. While the Fox Network was intentionally targeting older audiences with shows like Ally McBeal, The WB's breakout hits during the late 1990s centered around attractive highschoolers with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson's Creek in prime time. Just three years after their launch, they were ranked #1 among teenage audiences. Following the success of those shows, the network went on to produce the similarly positioned Felicity and Charmed.

Around the same time, The WB also launched the American version of Pokémon in the Kids' WB blocks, which they acquired from syndication (TV Tokyo) in 1998 and became a widespread pop-culture phenomenon. WB also got the English-language version of the second series Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, titled Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters in Japan.

It is sold to TV markets below the number 100 in viewership as determined by Nielsen in a packaged format, with a master schedule and no local advertisements.

It was estimated in 2005 that the WB was viewable by 91.66% of all households, reaching 90,282,480 houses in the United States. The WB was carried by 177 VHF and UHF stations in the U.S., counting both owned-and-operated and affiliated stations (the owned and operated stations are not actually operated by Warner Bros. or Time Warner; instead, Tribune owns and operates these stations, thus its stake in the network).

Outside of the aforementioned series, other large successes include Gilmore Girls, Smallville, and its only hit sitcom, Reba. Its most successful TV show to date is the religious family drama 7th Heaven, which enters its 10th season in the fall of 2005. The network has suffered in the ratings of late after its peak in the 2001/2002 season as it struggles to launch and brand unique new series such, something which it previously had no problem doing. 2003–2005 produced only one viable new series, One Tree Hill, and even that is a pale comparison to the ratings peaks of Dawson's Creek and the like. As a result, the network is shifting its focus from the women 18–24 demographic to the more broad 18–34 range. To this end, The WB has abandoned its trademark mascot, Michigan J. Frog, as the network's iconic emblem. WB Entertainment President David Janollari explained in July at the network's summer 2005 press tour, that the animated character "perpetuated the young-teen feel of the network, and that is not the image we want to put to our audience." During the 2004/2005 season, The WB finished behind rival UPN for the first time in several years.

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