In Depth

MyNet Shifts Away From Network Model

MyNetworkTV, launched in 2006 as a sixth broadcast network, is shifting towards a “programming service model” featuring syndicated shows and the WWE for its 2009-10 season, partly to reduce costs.

MyNetwork will continue to air “WWE Friday Night Smackdown” on Fridays, a two-hour block of NBC Universal Television Distribution’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” on another night and a movie on a third.

The rest of the program service lineup will be announced later, prior to the upfront advertising sales market in May, News Corp.'s MyNet said.

“We can generate more ratings, more revenue by going after these very high-end, high-profile branded shows like ‘Law & Order,” said Greg Meidel, president of MyNet. “The current business model, financially, just doesn’t work.”

The new model may create opportunities for syndicators, giving them new slots into which they can sell shows and earn cash by keeping a portion of the advertising time in shows sold to MyNet. Premiering in 2006 to an unsuccessful format of telenovelas, MyNet switched formats to feature reality and sports programs in 2007. The network introduced its first scripted program, “Under One Roof” and picked up “Smackdown” in 2008.

The “Law & Order” deal works on a 50/50 barter split with NBC Universal.

Mr. Meidel said the move will lower costs for MyNet, and he noted that he wouldn’t be surprised if other networks begin trending toward the model.

It's a time of flux for broadcast network, as lower demand for advertising is crimping margins and damping earnings. The CW, whose creation helped spur the creation of MyNet by leaving some old UPN and WB stations without programming, unsuccessfully experimented with selling its time to a third-party programmer, Media Rights Capital.

Mr. Meidel said he was resistant to the idea of a copying the CW's MRC model, as it would be difficult and expensive to promote the programs.

MyNet's new strategy creates questions: Why would affiliates need MyNet to secure prime-time syndicated content for them? While network affiliation helps stations establish brands, they are accomplished at buying daytime syndicated fare already. Also, station owners will be receiving a third different format from MyNet in three years, making it hard to establish a brand audiences can identify.

Calls to independent MyNet affiliate station groups Sinclair and LIN were not immediately returned.

Mr. Meidel said MyNet’s affiliate relations team was calling station group owners last night to inform them of the move.

(Editor: Baumann. Updated 5:30 a.m.)