By David Bauder
The Camden family is disappearing from television in May strictly for financial reasons: the WB's top executive said Sunday that the network is losing $16 million this year on "7th Heaven."
The family drama, the most popular program in the network's history, will end its run after 10 years. The decision seems irreversible despite an Internet campaign to save it, even though "7th Heaven" is still the WB's second highest-rated show after "Gilmore Girls."
Production costs tend to jump for television series as they get older, largely because the salaries of actors and others involved grow with success. "7th Heaven," about a family of seven and all their friends, has a large cast.
Reruns of "7th Heaven" were fading in the ratings, too, and that made it tougher for the network to recoup its investment, said Garth Ancier, the WB's top executive.
"As much as we all love the show, we do have to run a business," Ancier said.
Other older WB series, "Smallville" and "Gilmore Girls," don't have the same problem, he said.
Talks about a spinoff to "7th Heaven" have proven inconclusive so far.
The WB has struggled recently as it tries to shed its image as a teen-oriented network and seek out a broader audience. It learned the dangers of going too far when the new series "Just Legal," starring Don Johnson, attracted viewers with the average age of 50 and was swiftly canceled.
As a result, the WB is developing a new comedy about teenagers in a New England boarding school.
The network is also developing series for Ellen DeGeneres, playing the voice of a family dog; music star Brandy; and Nick Lachey, the about-to-be former Mr. Jessica Simpson, as the lead in a romantic comedy.
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