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The WB and UPN to Become CW Network

The WB Network and UPN will merge and become the CW Television Network, the new moniker of the conjoined network that hopes to turn the two smaller broadcast networks into a bigger power, it was announced Tuesday.

Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman and CEO Barry Meyer, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons made the announcement in New York.

TW and Tribune have been partners in the WB, while CBS owns UPN.

The two networks will merge operations and programming, with UPN president Dawn Ostroff to serve as president of Entertainment and John Maatta as chief operating officer.

Tribune Broadcasting is expected to be the primary station group for the new network.

The timing of the deal is opportune for both sides, sources said, in part because CBS Corp.'s existing affiliation pact with News Corp.-owned top UPN affiliates, WWOR New York and KCOP Los Angeles, is set to expire in September, while Tribune has been in protracted negotiations with WB for a new long-term affiliation deal.

The surprise news of the merger comes as the WB Network has faced pressure to perform and prove itself as a strategic asset at a time when its parent company Time Warner is under intense scrutiny on Wall Street and from maverick investor Carl Icahn.

TW has struggled with the WB's financials since the network was launched in January 1995 because of its lack of TV station holdings, which are the primary revenue drivers for broadcast networks.

Sources said WB Network chairman Garth Ancier and WB entertainment president David Janollari are expected to depart their posts following the completion of the deal.

TW president and chief operating officer Jeff Bewkes said at a recent investor conference that the WB has done only "medium," had a slight loss in 2005 and needs more hits and better affiliate relationships. He also signaled that management would focus on addressing these issues in 2006.

Paul J. Gough and Georg Szalai in New York contributed to this report.

Cynthia Littleton, Paul J. Gough and Georg Szalai writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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