In a move which caught most of the US television industry by surprise, two small networks are to merge into a larger and more commercially attractive entity.

The new broadcaster, to be known as The CW, will become America's fifth national network. It is a 50/50 venture between CBS-owned UPN and Time-Warner's The WB, both of which have struggled to turn a profit independently.

CW's target audience is the under-35s, a group CBS has found it difficult to woo. It starts operating in September and will broadcast for 30 hours a week, combining the best programming from its constituent parts including primetime, some daytime and kids' shows.

The move is welcomed by media buyers. Comments Shari Anne Brill, vp at Carat in New York: "I really see it as a good thing. It's a very viable fifth network."

Media anlyst Michael Kupinski concurs: "I look at it as a net benefit." He adds that it reduces losses at the two companies and could also help the other big four networks - ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox - as the melding of the two smaller networks will tighten the amount of available advertising time.

CBS president/ceo Leslie Moonves, who has overseen the company since its recent hive-off from media giant Viacom, believes TCW will be: "greater than the sum of its parts, delivering excellent demographics to advertisers, and building a strong new affiliate body".

"With this move, we will be creating a viable entity, one well-equipped to compete, thrive and serve all our many publics in this multichannel media universe," adds Moonves.

Adds TW president-ceo Jeff Bewkes: "This new network will have all the strategic asset value as an outlet for our programming that The WB [previously] presented us, but with a much firmer and more secure financial present and future."

Data sourced from and New York Times; additional content by WARC staff