CW Takes Best of WB, UPN for Stronger Lineup

Marketing Plans Include Theme Song From Black-Eyed Peas

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NEW YORK ( -- CBS and Time Warner this morning took the lid off their jointly owned creation, the CW, and what they promised they delivered. The CW is a huge improvement on both of the networks it replaces, thanks to a stronger identity, better programming and more sensible schedule.
Dawn Ostroff
Dawn Ostroff Credit: John P. Filo/CBS

The new broadcast network took time not just to roll out the schedule, but also explain its marketing plans, its deep knowledge of its target demo and its ideas about how advertisers can get involved.

CW, which is carried by 160 affiliates in 92% of the country, unveiled only two new shows for the fall: "Runaway" and "The Game," and an intriguing midseason replacement, "Hidden Palms," from Kevin Williamson, creator of "Dawson's Creek." (See full schedule here.)

Sunday night programming
Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff's most important move, however, is a new Sunday night African-American-oriented programming block. "You guys are going to spend some mother-[expletive] money," joked comedian Chris Rock, whose breakout series "Everybody Hates Chris" kicks off at 7 p.m. followed by "All of Us," "Girlfriends," "The Game" and a repeat of "America's Next Top Model" at 9 p.m.

Ms. Ostroff is also making a big play for the young female audience on Tuesday nights, slotting "Gilmore Girls" ahead of the critically acclaimed but ratings challenged "Veronica Mars." Young men, meanwhile, are the focus of Thursdays with "Smallville" and "Supernatural." A show reel even managed to make the wrestling showcase "Friday Night Smackdown" look vaguely hip with a montage of black and white photos.

The network's first upfront also revealed its unique marketing plans. The CW must be the only network to have thought about getting a band to create a new theme song. Black Eyed Peas will re-create the Motown hit "Get Ready" for the fall launch. An early-'70s-inspired logo in lime green won praise from supermodel Tyra Banks. According to the presentation, opened by CBS Corp. President-CEO Leslie Moonves and Warner Bros. Chairman-CEO Barry Meyer, CW will have the huge promotional power of their joint corporate assets, which include AOL, CBS Digital Media and Time Warner's publishing unit.

Explaining CW's audience
Ms. Ostroff carried the bulk of the two-hour presentation, revealing to the advertiser crowd just how her audience thinks. The social media scene is a "psychographic side effect of reality TV," she said. While every network has offered a take on how best to exploit the digital space, CW's focus on 18 to 34 year olds has put its initiatives under additional pressure to deliver. The ideas were clever, if not unique. The network is creating "The CW Lab," which will give viewers the chance to express themselves via the company's Web site by creating anything from 15-second clips of themselves to potential commercials and videos. A "lounge" area will allow fans to blog about shows. (Ms. Ostroff introduced her presentation by gently keying advertisers in to just how engaged her viewers are. They've sent her gift baskets and even flown signs in the sky to get her to keep their favorite WB and UPN shows on the air.)

Another idea to involve advertisers includes "Content Wraps," or "CWs." The idea is to stretch mini-shows across a couple of ad breaks, featuring, for instance, two young singles who are going to be made over for a date. Advertisers will be able to insert their brands into the minis. CW content will also be available on any number of non-network platforms.

Tyra stumbles
Ms. Banks, star and creator of "America's Next Top Model," which will air Wednesdays with "One Tree Hill," appeared onstage and gave the presentation a high-energy lift. Ms. Banks slipped on a floor tile, as did pretty much everyone else who walked across the stage. The faux pas would have earned her "Top Model" contestants a "Pack your bag" dismissal from the ultra-critical judges on her show, but Ms. Banks initially blew it off, saying, "I guess I tell my models to do as I say, not do as I do," before mildly razzing Ms. Ostroff about the potentially career-wrecking pratfall.

The CW doesn't a corporate slogan but is employing a "Free to be" concept for its viewers to insert their own characteristics. The network suggestions? Free to be fierce; free to be super; free to be friends; or free to be bald. The CW carried the theme on the press passes it handed out: "Free to be Cynical."

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