My latest column is headlined Screwing The TV Viewers: The CW network is the bastard child of The WB and UPN. To tease you, here’s some of my scoop: How Les Moonves kidnapped The CW, won a negotiating advantage over Warner Bros. and seized sole custody of the netlet for business decisions and programming. Also, see this update: EXCLUSIVE: Moonves Manhandles “Reba”
“Sure, all those press releases back in January claimed CBS and Warner Bros. were supposed to be equal partners parenting the new bastard child of The WB and UPN networks. That’s how The CW got its lame name — ‘C’ for CBS, which owns UPN, ‘W’ for Warner Bros. What no one dared mention was how right from the beginning Moonves out-maneuvered Barry Meyer, the chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Bruce Rosenblum, the president of the Warner Bros. Television Group. The Warners duo had been warned over and over to build in every safety clause they could think of to prevent the 50-50 partnership from becoming the ‘Les Network’ instead of the ‘Can’t Win Network,’ as wags now refer to it. Instead, they rolled over. ‘The deal should have been pretty straightforward. After all, no money changed hands. But Moonves was more aggressive. On tiebreaker issues, Barry and Bruce were folding every negotiation to Les,’ a Warners insider tells me. The result, the source explains further, is that ‘we were willing to trade a more valuable asset much more easily than we generally do at Time Warner given that we were bringing better stations, more successful programs and way higher revenue to the table.’
Now Moonves has used his negotiated advantage to de facto seize sole custody of The CW. I’m told ‘everything, every business decision, every programming decision’ has to go by Les. Moonves and Nancy Tellem, the president of the CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group, are together programming the 13 prime-time hours — yes, that’s all CW is giving you for its September launch. ‘Even Bruce acknowledges at this point that Les and Nancy run the show. This is basically a CBS takeover,’ sources tell me. ‘Everything on UPN will have first shot at coming back.’”
Photo: from left to right, CBS Corp.’s Les Moonves, Warner Bros. Entertainment’s Barry Meyer and Tribune Co.’s Dennis FitzSimons announce The CW deal.