New Net Poised to Make Multiplatform Deals

So long WB and UPN: The two youth-oriented networks are merging to create the CW, which will launch this fall with shows from both networks.
ADWEEK -- It would seem to be a no-brainer. A new broadcast network aimed directly at the tech-savvy 18-34 demographic and built around video-iPod-appropriate shows like Smallville and Veronica Mars would be ideally positioned to make a big play in the increasingly time-shifted, multiplatform media world.

While it's early, observers are already speculating that CW is likely to be aggressive in striking alternative deals to deliver its content. Just a few months ago, the WB was reportedly talking with Apple about distributing its shows through the iTunes music store. And Les Moonves, CBS chairman and new CW partner, who has publicly stated that he is interested in all sorts of digital distribution deals, recently began selling CBS shows through the new Google Video Store.

Now, both options would seem to be on the table for CW (Google has already streamed an episode of UPN's Everybody Hates Chris). Plus, other players like Yahoo, AOL and even MySpace would be interested in partnering with the new network.

Greg Smith, executive vice president and director of insights, planning and data analysis at Carat Fusion, pointed to CBS' willingness to test everything from selling episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation through Comcast to running podcasts of 60 Minutes as evidence that CW execs will follow suit. "Unless they are complete idiots, they're going to want to do this [with CW]," said Smith. "If you look at media usage [for this demographic], can you afford to run just once a week on TV?" CW's sheer newness may make it the ideal proving ground for new digital distribution options, he said, adding, "Why not experiment with CW?"

One such experiment might be an MTV Overdrive-like broadband platform, which would allow CW to deliver supplemental footage of shows like Beauty and the Geek or alternate endings for serialized dramas like Veronica Mars - all of which could provide advertisers with more sponsorship opportunities.

However, some say CW's newness may work against it. Todd Chanko, an analyst at Jupiter Research, says CW executives "have to move slowly. Are they going to start a new network by first launching a direct-to-consumer business? They can't risk alienating all these new affiliates." Viewers need time to become acquainted with the network, he said, and "a digital component will make it more confusing."

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