Will CBS, WB Go Extra Mile for New Network ?

Times Staff Writer

When CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves announced the formation of the new CW network -- a combination of the WB and UPN -- he joked that it would be headquartered in neutral territory, like Switzerland.

It didn’t take long before employees raised the obvious question: What about the commute?

With less than six months to go before the CW’s launch, a behind-the-scenes battle has been brewing over where it will be located. Most employees of the WB, who are used to driving to Burbank, want the CW to be in the San Fernando Valley, while UPN folks are lobbying to stay near their current Brentwood-adjacent address.


“Between West L.A. and Burbank in the Valley, it’s the two ends of the world,” Moonves said this week, acknowledging the constituencies on either side of “the hill.”

He quipped that maybe Palm Springs would be the best compromise. UPN President Dawn Ostroff, who will be the entertainment president of the CW, shot back: “Some of us would be able to get to work earlier if it was in Palm Springs rather than the Valley.”

It’s the classic L.A. real estate story: location, location, location, with a little traffic-pattern analysis thrown in for good measure.

The three sites being considered -- the former MGM Tower in Century City, the Mid-Wilshire complex that houses the trade paper Variety and the Pinnacle building in Burbank, just blocks from Warner’s historic lot -- each have fans whose passion is directly proportional to how much they dread a longer commute.

The simmering location debate is particularly sensitive because, officially at least, the CW -- a 50/50 joint venture of CBS and Warner Bros. Entertainment -- is all about unity.

On Wednesday, during a presentation for advertisers that was essentially the CW’s coming-out party, Warner Bros. Entertainment Chairman Barry Meyer underscored that point: “There is nothing that is going to drive CBS in one direction and Warner Bros. in another. We’re really on the same page.”

Meyer told advertisers that “one of the first things we thought of” while negotiating the deal was minimizing turf issues. It was decided, for example, that shows developed for the CW by Warner Bros. Television or CBS Paramount Television would be co-productions of the two entities. That way CBS and Warner Bros., owned by Time Warner Inc., would share the profits of any hits.

Another unifying tactic was creating a four-person board to oversee the CW, which includes Nancy Tellem, CBS Paramount television group president, and Bruce Rosenblum, Warner Bros. Television Group president, who have known each other since they worked for Moonves at Lorimar Television in the 1980s.

Even the new network’s name -- a compromise that came after 120 other monikers were rejected, including Now, Rev and even Jo, which happens to be the name of Moonves’ mother, -- was chosen with cooperation in mind. The “C” refers to CBS, while the “W” evokes Warner Bros.

The CW’s logo, meanwhile, will not include either the iconic CBS “eye” or Michigan J. Frog, the green cartoon that was the WB’s mascot until last year.

“No eyes. No frogs,” Moonves said.

Finally, in an attempt to start fresh, the agreement that outlined how the CW partnership would work stipulated that the network not be based at either of their current outposts.

Executives plan to settle on a location this month after reviewing cost proposals submitted by the prospective landlords.

“A lot of it is going to be dictated by the financials, what makes the most sense financially,” Ostroff said.

Meyer said in an interview that the location decision would not damage the budding partnership.

“It’s important not to let little things get in the way of the big idea,” he said. “We will come to a place that works for everyone.”

But Meyer admitted that he had a preference. “I would kind of like it to be here in Burbank,” he said, noting that with ABC and NBC down the road and CBS planning to move to Studio City, the San Fernando Valley is “becoming Network Row.”

Moonves wouldn’t reveal where he came down, except to say that he found it easier to select the CW’s executive team than pick its location. With characteristic humor, he poked fun at how thin-skinned executives can be when they feel upstaged.

Presented with the new network’s proposed logo -- a bold “The CW,” with the bottom of the “C” shaved off to evoke a rising sun -- Moonves feigned outrage.

“Let me look at that!” he said, studying the partial C and scanning for Meyer. “Those Warner Bros. guys are screwing us already. Where’s Barry?”