WB and UPN merger: aiming for the young female market

The WB network and UPN are merging into a single network called CW, under CBS and Time Warner. Both stations employed the strategy of niche marketing: instead of competing with the biggies for that all-hallowed young male audience, they aimed to corner less desirable demographics which were still lucrative enough to make a smaller network very happy. UPN went after every niche audience it could think of with programs ranging from Star Trek to the 380 separate Wayans Brothers shows, while the WB launched Buffy, realized teenage girls buy stuff, and added shows like Dawson’s Creek and Gilmore Girls.

Then the WB coughed on Fox’s renewal fees for Buffy after season 5, and UPN snatched it up. The two networks then proceeded to have a junior high spurned lover spat over the series, thus wrecking any chance of strategic and beneficial Angel/Buffy crossovers. Who says TV executives don’t let their personal politics get in the way of profit? After that, UPN and WB were both aiming for the young female “cutting edge” niche market. And between the two networks, they couldn’t come up with enough hit shows to attract sufficient eyeballs for their sponsors – hence the merger into one network.

Let’s think about this for a moment. Two struggling networks, fighting to survive, both aiming for young women viewers. Between them, they generate a handful of hits, but not enough for longterm success. Could this be because networks still just haven’t figured out what girls and women want to watch? UPN even brought in programming executive Dawn Ostroff from Lifetime – the “network for women” – to become its president. She’ll be running the new CW network. It’s up to her to give young women what they want to see. Should be very interesting to watch.

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