The WB

Bob Bibb and Lew Goldstein, co-presidents of marketing

The WB might not have the highest ratings on broadcast television, but you might be hard-pressed to find a network known for better-looking stars. The Frog's prime time slate seems an unending parade of young eye candy, from Smallville hunk Tom Welling to Charmed vixen Alyssa Milano to … Larry The Cable Guy?

In a marked departure from its brand, The WB has found a nice ratings pickup with redneck laugher Blue Collar TV. Featuring comedians Larry The Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall, Blue is a hodgepodge of sketches straight out of NASCAR nation: The subject matter is much more likely to be a double-wide than a double latte.

And so far so good for The WB, which has seen Blue collar an average of 3.3 million viewers for its Thursday time slot, up 16% over a year ago. It is men who are watching—a 43% bump year-to-year in men 18-34 and a 33% jump in males 12-34.

Although Co-Presidents of Marketing Bob Bibb and Lew Goldstein knew the “redneck” genre was not necessarily typical WB, they also saw an opportunity to expand the scope of the network brand—and audience.

“The show introduces a lot of people who would never come to The WB,” says Bibb. “It's a way to get to market No. 30 and below and get exposure for our network where maybe we couldn't in the past. The whole key to branding and marketing is, it's okay to dip your toe into something that may be a little off-brand. We always wondered what could bring us young guys, which maybe could help open up our brand a little bit.”

A radical scheduling move like Blue Collar is not foreign to The WB. Bibb likes to allude to “a little show called Buffy.”

Says Bibb, “When we launched Buffy, the network was built on family comedies. If we had just stayed with the same stuff, we'd still be a family-comedy network.”

From a promotional standpoint, the network has been fortunate to be able to leverage the success of the Blue Collar stars' comedy tours and CDs, as well as the burgeoning fame of Larry The Cable Guy (real name Dan Whitney).

The network has used extensive outdoor shots featuring the three stars mounted on hunting plaques and the tagline, “Well Hung Comedy.” A new on-air campaign this summer edits Larry The Cable Guy into snippets of Smallville, Gilmore Girls and One Tree Hill.

Next for Larry and the boys? A good old-fashioned shootin' match with the ladies of Wisteria Lane, as The WB moves Blue Collar to Sundays at 9. “If you can get more counter-programming than that,” Goldstein says, “I don't know how.”