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Ruminations: Say hello to Disney iTunes and goodbye to UPN & the WB

Ruminations: Say hello to Disney iTunes and goodbye to UPN & the WB

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If you were looking to make the evening news last Tuesday, that probably wasn't the day for it. By now, you have heard the big story of Disney buying Pixar,

Yet you might have missed two other items worthy of note.

First up, back in the early part of the month, Disney quietly announced that it was ramping up the content it offered for sale on Apple's iTunes Music Store. Notable among the items mentioned was some of the classic Disney animated short subjects. Somewhat surprisingly, this didn't rate a mention at Macworld in San Francisco during Steve Jobs Keynote presentation or at any time during the rest of the week at Moscone Center. Instead, the focus was on Apple's partnership with Intel for processors for Macintosh computer family.

Tuesday is the new music day on the Store. Every week sees new content added to tempt consumers and even a free song to download. This week, again quietly, some of those promised Disney animated short subjects made their appearance. While these titles may have been part of the recent DVD releases, this is a great start to what should become a regular release of content to the home market through this delivery channel.


Walt finally makes an appearance on iTunes
image courtesy of Apple Computers

The titles are:

Ferdinand The Bull (1938)
How to Play Football (1944)
Brave Little Taylor (1938)
The Three Little Pigs (1933)
Good Scouts (1938)
The Old Mill (1937)
Building a Building (1933)
The Tortoise and the Hare (1935)
The Ugly Duckling (1939)
The Pointer (1939)

The other news item of the day was a bit of a shock, especially to employees of the network television affiliates affected by the announcement. In what is as easily as interesting a corporate move as Disney and Pixar, Viacom and Time Warner announced the creation of a new television network to be known as the "CW". Come the new fall season, operations of both the WB and UPN networks will be suspended, to be replaced by the new joint venture.

It's no secret that the two networks struggled since their inceptions. UPN was anchored by the various shows of Paramount's Star Trek franchise. Out of the rest of the programming offered, very little can be called memorable or successful. A series of situation comedies often directed to specific ethnic groups didn't draw viewers away from the big three networks. And even Star Trek with the legion of loyal fans didn't translate into enough regular viewers to keep advertisers buying time.

WB tried to go for the younger generation with a more hip and trendy schedule. If you look for long running content, only a few shows can be counted as winners and again they managed to fall well down in the weekly ratings.

The two networks even traded shows from their schedules, especially the fan favorite, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer". But that couldn't and didn't last...

Ratings are always the key for television. A show on UPN or the WB might get what their networks would consider acceptable numbers. Yet shows with the same numbers over on NBC, CBS or ABC are shown the door on a consistent basis. Interesting now that the new "CW" will try to do better than the predecessor making use of the best both networks had to offer. Some of the shows said to be on the new fall line up include UPN shows as "America's Next Top Model" and "Veronica Mars," as well as WB programs "Beauty and the Geek" and "Smallville."

The real shock ahead isn't for viewers. It lies with folks who work at those affiliates of the WB and UPN. For example, here in San Francisco, we have UPN on KBHK 44 and WB on KBWB 20. Where the new network's programming will be carried is still uncertain, although the scuttlebutt says that the folks at KBHK 44 look to be in the lead. That station already carries some of the content also shown on the CBS KPIX 5, including repeats of prime time programming.

What happens to some of these orphan stations may be an opportunity or it may not. Likely many of these will become independents and looking for new directions. The former NBC affiliate here in San Francisco, KRON 4, pins much of their programming hopes on news content, but can't compete during prime time hours with the heavy hitters.

Or could another network emerge from the ashes? While cable seems the new choice for emerging content, somewhere there may be a business plan just waiting to be dusted off to step in and take up the challenge. Again, time will tell...

But, hey! That's life in the entertainment industry. Someone always has another great idea just waiting in the wings. We just have to sit back and watch for the next one.

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