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The WB Sees the Big Picture

The WB is doubling its HDTV output this fall so that its affiliates aren't left behind as their local cable systems load up their high-def tiers. "We wanted to give our affiliates a compelling case" for being part of those tiers, says Hal Protter, senior vice president, affiliate relations for the network.

The WB also believes that its young viewers tend to be early adopters of technology, including HD, Protter says. "There's a pretty compelling story on large-screen televisions, DVD players, and other high-tech devices with younger viewers. And, at a $1,000 price point [for HD sets], we think HD is going to be extremely popular with our young consumers."

The network is increasing its HD schedule from 5½ hours to 11½.

HD dramas will include Smallville, Everwood, Gilmore Girls, Tarzan, One Tree Hill, Angel and Smallville Beginnings. Comedies will include Reba, What I Like About You, All About the Andersons, Like Family, and Run of the House.

Five programs will remain in standard-definition: Charmed, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, Grounded for Life, Steve Harvey's Big Time and 7th Heaven.

"There is some value to a program's being in HD in terms of its future syndication and for cable," says Protter. "But the economics of making the current year of a program like 7th Heaven in HD when all the other years weren't in HD aren't there."

The WB is the fourth commercial network to offer more than half its programming schedule in high-definition. This season, CBS and ABC will broadcast all script-based programs in the format. With The West Wing going HD this season, NBC will have its scripted schedule in HD except for Friends, Scrubs and Will & Grace. Fox and UPN will not offer any HD, although Fox is expected to make the leap once its new network broadcast facility is upgraded early next year.