Originally created 01/16/04

WB network hopes a movie division can help revive ratings



LOS ANGELES -- The slumping WB network, betting on a counterintuitive strategy, said Tuesday it was starting a division to make TV movies at a time other broadcasters are retreating from that business.

Its first project will be a movie based on the Samantha character in the "American Girls" doll series.

Broadcasters have been making fewer TV movies recently because, with cable and DVDs, viewers are more interested in watching these features without commercials. By the time a movie that originated in theaters makes it to broadcast television, it has already been seen on those other formats.

"We've always done well when we've done things that other people aren't doing," said the WB's co-chairman, Jordan Levin.

The WB is also seeing fewer movies being made that appeal to teenage girls and young women, its primary audience.

Tana Nugent Jamieson, who worked at TBS and developed the highly rated thriller "Red Water," was appointed head of the WB's new movie division.

The WB hopes the movies can fill some holes in its schedule. More than its rivals, the WB has been hurt by viewers' growing distaste for reruns.

The network thrives on being hip and buzz-worthy, and this season has been neither. Its average prime-time audience has dipped from 4.3 million last season to 3.8 million this year, according to Nielsen Media Research.