Originally created 07/31/98

Station may air WB network



The full lineup of WB television programs could be coming back to Augusta area televisions this fall, WB network officials said.

The Warner Brothers network went off the air in the Augusta area more than a year ago when television station WBEK (Channel 67) changed affiliation to UPN -- the United Paramount Network.

A new partnership between the WB network and the low-power station, however, could bring WB programming back to Augusta as early as September. The network's programs would only appear on cable.

WBEK is engaged in talks with local cable providers.

"We've had some good discussions," said Jeremy Coghlan, WBEK's general manager said. "We want to let people see WB is not going away."

As a preview to the potential fall lineup, WBEK is airing some of the WB shows this summer. The station started broadcasting Buffy The Vampire Slayer about three weeks ago and starts showing 7th Heaven this week.

If negotiations work out with the cable providers, all the Warner Brothers programs will be on the new WB cable channel, WB network officials said. The deal will not change programming at WBEK, Mr. Coghlan said. The station will remain a UPN affiliate and continue to show UPN programs.

The new partnership between WBEK and WB is part of the fledgling network's strategy to set up shop in smaller television markets. The network has affiliates in the 100 largest television markets, WB officials said. But instead of signing network affiliates in smaller television markets, the WB network is joining television stations affiliated with other networks to set up cable channels.

The problem with signing station affiliates, WB spokeswoman Natalie Anderson said, is that there are so many networks from which to choose. In addition to the three big networks -- CBS, NBC and ABC -- there is also Fox, UPN and WB.

"There aren't enough stations to go around," she said.

An alternative to setting up local cable channels is to establish a national cable network -- a strategy that the network has decided against because it does not allow for local programming, Ms. Anderson said.

The WB network plans to launch a full lineup of programs on cable in as many as 80 markets this fall, she said.

The new, 24-hour WB cable channel will show the full lineup of WB programs, including the Jamie Foxx Show, The Steve Harvey Show, Dawson's Creek, Unhappily Ever After and others. It will also show syndicated programs, such as Friends.

In some ways, Ms. Anderson said, the cable channels will be better than the regular WB network channels. Customers will get all the network programming and more.

The deal allows WBEK's general manager to keep his promise to viewers to bring back WB, he said.

WBEK, which began as an independent station 12 years ago, became a UPN affiliate last fall. Before that, it had been a WB affiliate and was a Fox affiliate for one year before the network signed with WFXG.

"I told people if I could bring (WB programming) back, I would," Mr. Coghlan said. "It's coming. I kept my word."