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Fox Prime-Time Net To Launch Sept. 5

Feb 22, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Fox announced Wednesday that it will launch a prime-time-only network, dubbed My Network TV, on Sept. 5 with just two hours of stripped programming and weekend wrap-ups of the programs.

At a packed press conference in midtown Manhattan, Peter Chernin, president and Chief Operating Officer of Fox parent company News Corp., touted Fox’s “unprecedented track record” of success in launching new ventures.

“We will get this right,” Mr. Chernin said. He said that the new network, which will target viewers 18 to 49 years old, will “be profitable from Day One” and will be promoted on other News Corp.-owned platforms, including cable channels and MySpace.com, the fast-growing personal Web page community.

My Network TV will be “a program service that doesn’t take away from stations,” said Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News and Fox Television Stations, nine of which have been affiliated with UPN and were faced with filling the 8-10 p.m. weeknight block when the September merger of UPN and The WB into The CW was announced a month ago. “General managers have to be partners with us,” he said.

My Network TV’s first lineup will consist of two telenovela franchises. Each will offer stories designed to play out from beginning to end in 65-episode, 13-week arcs.

At 8 p.m. will be “Table for Three,” running under the “Desire” label that has been in development for syndication by Twentieth Television for several months. Though “Desire” has been sold to stations reaching some 70 percent of the country, the contracts contained recapture rights should Fox decide to launch a new network, according to executives. They would not offer details of the commercial inventory split in My Network TV programming, but said Twentieth sales teams were fanning out to make calls starting Wednesday afternoon and predicted they will sign up affiliates reaching 90 percent of the country.

At 9 p.m. will be the telenovela “Fashion House,” running under the “Secrets” label.

Both feature attractive young casts — four from each telenovela were introduced at the press conference — and plots involving lust, betrayal and other staples of the genre that has proven popular around the world.

They are “all about guilty pleasures,” said Fox Television Stations President Jack Abernethy, who predicted that My Network TV ratings will be higher than UPN’s.

Among the other programs in development as five-night strips are “On Scene,” a crime-oriented newsmagazine from Fox News; a quiz show tentatively titled “America’s Brainiest” that is based on a British hit; “Catwalk,” a competition for supermodel wannabes; and “Celebrity Love Island,” a reality show on which the famous and not-famous seek love.

“There are at least two or three hit shows in that batch,” Mr. Ailes said.

A video reel demonstrated how affiliated stations could brand local programming such as “My Yankees” or “My 9 News.”

“Try that with The CW,” said Fox Television Stations Operations President Dennis Swanson, who before joining the Fox stations group last year was chief operating officer of the Viacom-owned stations group that included 16 UPN stations.

Although the name of the new network clearly plays off youth- and celebrity-magnet MySpace.com, the famously sharp-tongued Mr. Ailes joked that it was chosen because “it sounds better than ‘cwah.'”

For its part, The CW responded to the My Network TV announcement with a statement that read: “We wish their programming service well, but remain bullish on The CW’s future as America’s premier destination for young viewers. We are certain that no new network has ever launched with a roster of top young adult programming brands like The CW. Based on our roster of proven hit series that consistently rank number one or number two in young adult demographics, The CW will uniquely benefit and serve advertisers, stations and viewers alike.”