CW Signs First Five Outside Affils

The CW unveiled its first batch of affiliation agreements Wednesday with companies outside CBS Corp. and Tribune Broadcasting, securing carriage on five strong stations owned by midsized station groups.

In Cleveland, Winston Broadcasting's WB affiliate WBNX will be the CW outlet come September, as will Emmis Communication's WKCF Orlando, Fla., a top WB affiliate that is currently up for sale.

In Louisville, Ky., Cascade Broadcasting's WB outlet WBKI will align with CW. WBKI was recognized last year by the network as its top affiliate for overall excellence. Also signing on is Weigel Broadcasting's WB in South Bend, Ind., WMWB. The lone UPN affiliate in this group is s Capitol Broadcasting's WJZY Charlotte, N.C.

"The CW is a merger of everything great about the WB and good things of UPN," said Neal Sabin, executive VP of WMWB parent Weigel Broadcasting.

The deal expands CW's national clearance to 52%, including 25 of the top 30 markets. The network is expected to announce several more deals later this week. When the network, co-owned by CBS and Time Warner, announced its formation in January, it signed 10-year affiliation deals with 16 Tribune Broadcasting and 11 CBS-owned UPN stations.

The five new affiliates are said to have agreed to sign for the same number of years.

In Orlando, WKCF was the clear frontrunner for the CW because of the station's strength and that Fox owns the market's UPN, which will become a My Network TV affiliate this fall.

Emmis Television President Randy Bongarten says signing with The CW will help make his station even stronger. "We believe that The WB added a lot of value to the station and visa-versa. We understood it was best not to mess with that formula," he said.

"We are thrilled to announce these five long-term affiliation agreements with these leading broadcasting companies," said John Maatta, COO, The CW, in a statement.

"They are the first independently-owned stations to join The CW and they represent the first wave of new affiliations, with many more to come in the weeks ahead. “These groups represent tremendous local station success stories, a blend [though WB-heavy] of WB and UPN affiliates whose ratings and station value has increased tremendously due to their network affiliation over the past decade."