Morningstar to Exit the CW for MLB Startup

NEW YORK Bill Morningstar, evp, ad sales at the CW, is departing the network, according to sources who say that he is headed for the cable sports net that is being launched by Major League Baseball in January 2009.

Morningstar has been the CW network’s ad sales chief since its founding two years ago, when the WB and UPN were merged. Previously, Morningstar headed up ad sales for the WB.

Morningstar could not be immediately reached for comment. Reps at the CW and MLB could neither confirm nor deny that he was leaving the former to join the latter’s startup network.

The CW had a tough year in the ratings race this past season, down double digits with its core 18-34 year old audience. It also had a smaller mix of ad avails to sell during this year’s upfront sales market, losing five hours as it syndicated its Sunday-night programming to Media Rights Capital. The CW also axed the male-skewing WWE Smackdown on Friday nights.

While the network took in only about $385 million vs. $575 million last year, that figure was about equal to its Monday-Friday upfront take last year.

Morningstar had been with the WB network since its inception in 1994. He was promoted to the head of the sales operation as evp, media sales in March 2001. Before joining the WB, he was a vp in the network group at Grey Advertising.