Programming

FLASH!

3/17/2006 07:00:00 PM Eastern

It's KRZY!: CW Starts Call-Letter Frenzy

Call it Extreme Makeover: Station Edition. As affiliates sign up with The CW or My Network TV, station managers are frantically plotting to rebrand themselves.

So far, the boldest move is coming out of South Bend, Ind., where Weigel Broadcasting's independent station, now a My Network TV affiliate, is changing its name from WAAT to WMYT to give the station instant recognition.

About two-dozen WB stations have the network's initials in their call letters, including KSWB San Diego, KUWB Salt Lake City and WDWB Detroit. Only WUPN Greensboro, N.C., uses the network's name in its call letters, and its managers, too, must ponder name changes.

Come September, WUPN will be a My Network TV outlet, but General Manager Ron Inman isn't sure what he'll do with the station's name. “We've put a lot of equity in UPN, but I'm not sure it matters nowadays what your call letters are,” he says. (Flash! isn't that concerned. Yes, UPN was a brand that stood for something, but...)

In Kansas City, Hearst-Argyle's UPN affiliate is just plain lucky. The station, KCWE, is affiliating with The CW and, of course, plans to play off its name.

Don't despair, call-letter fans! There are still some good ones to be had: KMTY, WCWT and WCWE are all available, according to a search of the FCC database. But KMTV (the CBS affiliate in Omaha, Neb.) and WMTV (NBC in Madison, Wis.) are already taken.

In Pittsburgh, the Sinclair-owned WB station might be interested in a trade. Sinclair's WCWB boasts one of best plays on The CW. Trouble is, CBS-owned UPN affiliate WNPA Pittsburgh will carry The CW, leaving WCWB to become a My Network TV affiliate.

Keep on Slingin' in the Free World

The Slingbox, an innovative device that takes a viewer's home-television signal and streams it to the Internet to allow remote viewing on a PC, has come under fire from some broadcasters and programmers for enabling out-of-market viewing of their shows.

“Those devices scare the hell out of me,” said ESPN VP Bryan Burns, speaking at a Washington tech conference last week. But Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian dismisses such criticism as “mostly sabre-rattling.”

Krikorian isn't afraid to choose his own path. He recalls that when he was seeking funding, venture capitalists advised him not to build a box, but instead partner with a large cable operator to test Slingbox's functionality.

Krikorian thought just the opposite. If he made a deal with a cable operator, he suspected, the cable company would require Sling Media to do extensive field trials that would drain it financially. So he forged on with his plan to build his own retail device.

Krikorian said he did meet with Comcast executives CEO Brian Roberts and COO Steve Burke just before the Slingbox's launch. They questioned the wisdom of going retail and wondered why he wouldn't partner with them instead. Krikorian replied that Comcast would expect him to do 24 months of field trials, which would bankrupt him.

Burke's tongue-in-cheek response: “That's absolutely not true. We can make it quick—we'll do it in 18 months.”

Simon Cowell Rarely Idle

Simon Cowell is quite the lothario—so says his brother, Tony Cowell, author of the recently published I Hate To Be Rude But … The Simon Cowell Book of Nasty Comments. While falling a few zeroes short of Wilt Chamberlain's total, the American Idol judge has amassed a handsome collection of notches on his bedpost.

“If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say I'd had somewhere between seventy and one hundred women, but they seem to go as quickly as they arrive,” the book quotes Simon as saying. (We wonder why they leave so fast: Maybe he's bit too judgmental?)

Big brother Tony, who also penned Simon's biography, says, “God, yes, he's a ladies man, absolutely. From very early on, he was always very quick with girls.”

I Hate To Be Rude mentions Simon, as a boy, converting a backyard shed into a well-stocked pub with booze from their father's liquor cabinet so he could woo girls (and sate them with alcohol).

“He was kind of a pretty boy then,” says Tony. “Not that he's not now—he's just a bit fatter.”

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