WB Chairman Garth Ancier Leaves Behind His Heart

Says Goodbye to the Frog, Felicity and Buffy

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A decade ago, Garth Ancier helped launch the WB as founding programming president. But the network will close its doors Sept. 20, and the CW will open for business in its place. On Sept. 17, the WB will re-air the pilots of four of its most popular shows -- "Felicity," "Angel," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Dawson's Creek" -- and Mr. Ancier, the WB's chairman (until Sunday night), is hosting a party so some of those involved in the WB's early years can watch the end together. He took time out from his party prep to speak to MediaWorks about the end of the Michigan J. Frog network.
Garth Ancier
Garth Ancier

MediaWorks: How will you feel on Sunday night?

Garth Ancier: We'll be feeling a little reminiscent of the shows and the good people who worked there. Our legacy will really be felt in the new talent we brought to market, whether it was Katie Holmes, Michelle Gellar or the Wayans brothers.

MediaWorks: So who's attending the party?

Mr. Ancier: It's 500 people at my house: 125 talent plus guests, and some of the senior WB people over the years, including [Founder] Jamie Kellner, [President-Programming] Suzanne Daniels, [President-Warner Bros. TV Group] Bruce Rosenblum and [Chief Operating Officer] John Matta. We had a hard time tracking a lot of people down. We had the first holding deals with Vince Vaughn and Vin Diesel, but we didn't want to ask anyone who had a holding deal but then didn't get on air, so we had to be careful.

MediaWorks: What about Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise?

Mr. Ancier: No, I don't think they'll be there.

MediaWorks: What was the first show on the WB?

Mr. Ancier: It was "The Wayans Brothers."

MediaWorks: Do you remember any of the advertisers?

Mr. Ancier: Well, Pepsi certainly did a lot with us, movie advertisers, cosmetics and fast foods. Bill Morningstar [head of sales] was one of the first people to find ways to incorporate advertisers into shows. We couldn't have people owning the whole network, so to keep brands separate, we'd have, say, Verizon put their brand in "Smallville," and Cingular do "One Tree Hill."

MediaWorks: You were there from the start, as president of programming. What did you learn about network marketing?

Mr. Ancier: We had all come from Fox. I was the first head of programming at Fox and the WB, and Jamie [Kellner] was at both networks, and so were the marketing team. So we felt like we avoided the pitfalls because we'd already started a network. We knew that we hadn't capitalized on the Fox logo; we created the FBC logo, but it was not evocative of 20th Century Fox and the searchlight beams. Jay Chiat asked why we had created a new deity when we had such a rich history. So at the WB, we took the WB shield and the letters modified to become the logo.

MediaWorks: What were the lowlights of the WB?

Mr. Ancier: The toughest time was losing "Buffy" to UPN, just because it was a project that was so distinctively WB. It went over a license-fee dispute.

MediaWorks: And the closure of the WB?

Mr. Ancier: I was involved in the process, and I knew we were facing an incredibly challenging time. What emerges is stronger than either one was alone. And there are shows from the WB on the CW.

MediaWorks: So the WB, doesn't really die, it's just donating its organs?

Mr. Ancier: Yes, my heart.

MediaWorks: So, Garth, what's next for you?

Mr. Ancier: I'll tell you in two weeks.
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