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The WB Talks BUFFY

Network explains why it was a good idea to let the show go and why it was bad news for UPN and television overall.

By Frank Kurtz     July 18, 2001

Sarah Michelle Gellar as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
© 2000 Warner Brothers Television

At the Television Critics Association gathering in L.A., the WB chose to address why they had to let BUFFY go.

Talking for the WB, Brad Turrell spoke of the series, saying, "We love the show. We loved working with Sarah. And we made a tremendous effort to keep the show. But in the end, it was obvious that keeping the show was impossible. Not only is the license fee about as high per rating point as for what NBC paid for ER, but not announced at the time but soon thereafter, within about three days, the UPN deal for BUFFY also included a two-year affiliation extension with the Fox owned UPN affiliates in New York, Los Angeles, and other major markets, thus keeping UPN alive. Without that distribution, there's not a network. That meant that UPN was prepared to outbid any offer we put on the table, and they did. But at what price? Last year, UPN took in about 135 million dollars in the up front. And this year, they're stuck somewhere around 50 million, it might be up to 70 million at this point, or just what they paid for one season of BUFFY, a show that represents just one of hour of programming on their network. That's absolutely their right to do that. And that's what they did. That's the real story behind BUFFY. And that's why it's not on the WB this year."

Meanwhile, the situation with BUFFY looks to have a lasting effect on the network. When asked if his previous comment that the loss of BUFFY was akin to Aramgeddon for the TV biz, the WB's Jamie Kellner says, "I think it does have long-term ramifications. I think you'll -- obviously the programs we purchased this year are something that have been in development for a long period. I think we're going to see the industry continue to polarize towards a vertical structure, which is not good for the industry, I think. I think it's much better if you can find ways to deal with various different program suppliers. And probably what will happen is -- hopefully what will happen is that we'll be able to create new business models that allow networks to acquire programs from other suppliers that will prevent programs from one network to -- back to the studio-supported network."

When asked if his new program deals were affected by the BUFFY loss, Kellner says, "The deals that area in -- you know, that were in place last year preceded what happened with BUFFY. Will we be looking to create models on a go-forward basis with certain suppliers? Probably."


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