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CBS, Warner Bros. Tee Up CW Affiliation Pacts

CBS and Warner Bros. executives, meeting in Los Angeles this week to finalize rollout plans for the new CW network, are expected to open the first markets for affiliation pacts within the next two weeks.

Industry sources told B&C letters are set to go out shortly giving stations outside of the core Tribune and CBS markets what they'll need to do to get a CW affiliation, as well as the anticipated timetable for completion of the process.

The initial snail mail is not believed to contain specifics about just what it will take to get the prized affiliation with The CW, which combines the folding UPN and The WB networks this fall.

But many expect reverse compensation to be a key component of bidding wars among multiple stations in the impacted markets.

Since many stations will revert to independent status after being orphaned in prime time and other dayparts by their former networks, the level of anxiety was running particularly high after the initial surprise Jan. 24 announcement about the formation of The CW.

Some UPN and WB general managers had complained that their calls to the networks about affiliate contacts for information were going unanswered.

Fox, which lost its UPN affiliations on nine stations, including the top markets, has already made it clear that its O&Os in Orlando, Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Baltimore will steer clear of any CW affiliations, despite the fact that there are no Tribune or CBS stations there.

“It certainly makes no sense for our four available UPN stations to sign with the CW,” Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy said in a memo to general managers last Thursday.

“Handing over 30 hours of valuable time, receiving little inventory to sell and being asked to pay comp makes no sense for our TV stations.  This would insure losses, less growth opportunities and continue station brand confusion in this competitive media landscape,” he said.

To fill the void, Fox intends to announce its own unwired network comprising five- or six-night, first-run strip programming, likely including Twentieth Television’s English-language telenovelas under the Desire banner.

The station group is talking to both domestic suppliers and international producers about potential product.