Media Watch

KWBA Nabs CW Network Deal

Michigan J. Frog might be dead, but WB 58 (cable Channel 8) hopes its agreement with the new CW is a long and prosperous one.

KWBA, Tucson's WB affiliate, has come to terms with CW, the CBS Corp./Warner Bros. Entertainment hybrid network that will combine programming from the WB and UPN.

"There was a lot to it. It was weeks and weeks of negotiation. We're just tired now, and we're very glad we got the new affiliation," said Joan Lee, promotion manager at KWBA.

While the programming lineup won't be officially announced until sometime in May, most projections are relatively similar in terms of what primetime fare will make the cut.

"The issue seems to be more the scheduling than the actual shows," said Carol LaFever, CEO of Cascade Broadcasting, the organization that owns and operates KWBA. "Without exception, (rep firms are) citing the same shows as probable successors: Everybody Loves Chris, America's Top Model, WWE (SmackDown!) and Veronica Mars on the UPN side. On the WB side, it looks like a strong case for Gilmore Girls, Everwood and Reba. All in all, out of all the time slots available, there are probably only two or three half-hours that aren't likely going to be filled from shows on those schedules."

Cascade is 2-for-2 in affiliate negotiations for CW programming. It landed a similar deal for its station in Louisville, Ky.

From a scheduling standpoint, the CW lineup tends to favor a smoother transition for former WB affiliates. In addition to the two-hour weeknight and Sunday primetime block, the new CW will also carry a Saturday morning kids' programming block, similar to what the WB offers now, plus a syndicated weekday afternoon block from 3 to 5 p.m. For the time being, KWBA plays ER and 8 Simple Rules during that portion of the lineup.

"We're really excited about it," Lee said. "The thing is, we get to keep a lot of the things we already have. We've got Friends from 6-7 p.m. We've got the (Arizona) Diamondbacks all summer long."

LaFever says a marketing campaign will begin in earnest in July, with the network unveiling slated for sometime in September, shortly after UPN and the WB close shop on Labor Day.

Despite the demise of the network that led to its designation, KWBA has no plans at the moment to change its call letters.

"My inclination is to leave it at the present time," LaFever said. "I don't believe there's any negative connotation to the WB call letters and the affiliation. I do believe in that particular market, people know who KWBA is. There are going to be enough changes to where we'd have to look seriously to see whether a call-letter change was justified. We slug it and promote it as Tucson's WB, so we'll probably end up promoting it as Tucson's CW, and that might not merit a call-letter change."

Meanwhile, KTTU Channel 18 (cable Channel 2), the UPN affiliate, took little time to announce its change in direction. It will carry Rupert Murdoch's MYNetworkTV programming the day after its deal with UPN expires.

KTTU is the 65th affiliate of the fledgling network, which will borrow from the telenovela model that has garnered success on Spanish-language stations.


Did you notice something different about the Tucson Citizen? After months of planning, the afternoon newspaper's much-discussed format change went into effect Wednesday, March 29.

Citizen Editor and Publisher Michael Chihak breaks down the paper's four-section look.

"The A section will be generally as it has been. Local news, some state news, the editorial and op-ed pages are moving back into the A section. Lately, they've been in the B section.

"The B section will be nation and world news. It has been for the last couple of years. It will be a fairly small section most days. There also will be dedicated news from Mexico in the B section, since they're our neighbors to the south and since many people here have roots and ties there. Economically speaking, it's very important to us. It's going to be a combination of Gannett News Service, The Arizona Republic--which has a Mexico City bureau--and AP. I think it will be largely AP. The back of that section will continue to run the weather.

"C will be sports. Sports will be our least-changed section, although there will be some different nuances there. The basic sports philosophy remains the same: UA, high school sports and professional sports in their seasons, making sure we give adequate rundowns of those.

"The fourth section will be a tabloid magazine section Monday through Friday. It's going to be, in essence, the feature section. Each day's section will have a different theme. We're calling these Plus sections: Monday is Body Plus; it's health and fitness. Tuesday is Family Plus; Wednesday is Taste Plus; Thursday will be Calendar Plus; and Friday is Weekend Plus."

The new launch is the culmination of six years of discussions--Chihak says he has copies of e-mails and memos dating to 2000--with an increasingly intense process over the course of the last two years as the project realized fruition.

During that time, readership slipped by 25 percent, from just less than 40,000 to its present-day total of slightly less than 30,000.

"We want to stop the decline and turn it around and go in the other direction," Chihak said. "We know in the early going that will probably happen with the targeting group, because everyone will be curious. We're starting a pretty intensive marketing campaign the next 10 weeks. The market will be somewhat saturated with our message that we're new, and we have new products and things to show people to try it out. In the early going, we're probably going to see a spike in numbers. It's up to us to sustain the quality, and capture and retain those readers."