December 18, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

More musical chairs in network executive suites as Garth Ancier, The WB’s entertainment president since its 1995 launch, is leaving his post and will — most likely — assume the same position at NBC in mid-1999. (NBC execs refused to comment, as they are prohibited from negotiating with Ancier until February.) Taking Ancier’s place is his longtime No. 2, Susanne Daniels, who just signed a new five-year deal with The WB.

Ancier, 41, becomes the third network entertainment chief to exit this season (joining NBC’s Warren Littlefield and Fox’s Peter Roth), but he at least chose to walk out the door, rather than having it shown to him. Ancier, who was in the middle of renegotiating his WB contract, said that although he tried hard to ink a deal, ”at the end of the day there were other opportunities and challenges…that I want[ed] to pursue.”

The WB, however, won’t let Ancier pursue those opportunities until his current contract expires next May. In the meantime, he’ll become an ”executive consultant” at the netlet. (Whether that means giving up his primo parking space remains to be seen.)

Daniels, 33, who helped develop such youth-oriented favorites as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek, 7th Heaven, and Felicity, is considered an able replacement and a shrewd executive. In fact, when she negotiated her last WB contract in 1997, she had it stipulated that she’d become entertainment president next June regardless of whether Ancier was still around (if Ancier had stayed, he would have become president of the network). ”Susanne has been groomed to head a network entertainment division her entire career,” said WB CEO Jamie Kellner. Daniels’ first move as prez was to make well-regarded programming exec Jordan Levin the inheritor of her executive VP title.

Although Daniels (who is married to King of the Hill cocreator Greg Daniels) won’t be instigating any major creative changes at The WB — it is the only net whose numbers are going up, after all — she does have one main concern. ”An immediate goal is to launch a hit comedy,” she says. This season’s lone new sitcom, The Army Show, has already been court-martialed. Dramas are doing better except for Hyperion Bay, which is being reworked by former Melrose Place exec producer Frank South.

The WB also wants to get into the late-night game and add original prime-time fare on either Friday or Saturday by next fall. As for Daniels’ long-term plan? ”I want to make the network No. 1 in the 18-34 demographic,” she says. It can’t hurt that she’s in that age group herself.

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