One Less Network

Last week, CBS and Warner Brothers announced that they will combine the UPN and WB broadcast networks to create a joint venture that will be called CW. The new network will start broadcasting in the fall of 2006, at which time the other two networks will shut down. CW programs will include some of the more popular content from the UPN and WB lineups.

Many cities currently have both networks, which means that one or more station will be left without network programming. Perhaps this will mean that more local and original programming will be aired, or it could mean that there just be more hours of syndicated reruns in these markets. Maybe we’ll finally see an All Friends, All the Time station.

Is this an early sign that there are cracks in the seams of the traditional broadcast model, or is this just a natural consolidation of resources for greater efficiency? In a country where more than 80 percent of households already have cable or satellite service, maybe the economics are shifting away from large, monolithic broadcasting networks that try to appeal to massive segments of the population. And if cable and satellite are able to program more effectively for their audiences through more targeted content, then does this mean that IPTV could go even further, and provide even more specialized content?

I certainly don’t know the answers, but it does feel like there’s a chance for a sea change in broadcasting as new television technologies take hold.