The WB Television Network will get out of the afternoon kids'-programming business starting in January 2006, instead programming a two-hour weekday WB-branded block of off-network product to replace its kids'-programming block from 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
At the same time, the netlet will expand its Saturday-morning block from four hours to five (starting an hopur earlier at 7 a.m.).
Chairman Garth Ancier said the move came in response to affiliate input on the "challenges" of the weekday kids'-programming business.
While the afternoon block will initially consist of off-net series, it will look to develop first-run strips as well. Both, the WB says, will provide stronger lead-in ratings to station's early fringe and access programming.
It will also make it a new bulk buyer for syndicated product: "This move immediately makes The WB a significant buyer of off-network programming, which will be welcomed by program suppliers and producers."
The Kids' WB weekday block is an anime-dominated lineup that includes the new long-in-the tooth Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! The network did not say which, if any of the weekday shows would be used to expand the weekend block.
As reasoning for the move away from weekday kids fare after a decade, The WB pointed to the growth of 24-hour cartoon cable channels including Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and its own sibling, Cartoon Network, "fulfilling, to a great extent, the demand for kids' programming in the afternoons for viewers and advertisers," it said in announcing the decision.
The WB also said the FCC's decision that promotional material will now be counted as commercial time toward the ad cap in kids shows contributed to the move. " This rulemaking created regulatory uncertainty concerning the wisdom of continuing with the Monday through Friday block." the network said in a statement.
In November 2004, the FCC revised its definition of “commercial matter” to include promos for TV shows. That limits the network's ability during that key 3-5 p.m. time period to promote other shows within the block, the Saturday kids block, or its network programming.