My Network TV to Center on Stations

Feb 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy’s pitch to stations on behalf of his My Network TV programming service is a for-stations, by-stations philosophy.

To attract stations to its fold the My Network TV model includes a generous allocation of local inventory time, an 18 to 49 demo target and a unique appeal to the country’s burgeoning Hispanic population-all things that are important to Fox Stations and non-Fox stations alike.

Many local stations will be in need of two hours of prime-time programming starting in September, when UPN and The WB merge to become The CW. Fox is hoping to attract stations that are looking for programming without reverse compensation or other strings attached.

“The form a network takes is really a function of the marketplace and the demands of your television stations. This network we think best meets our needs as station owners,” Mr. Abernethy said last week when announcing plans for My TV, the network’s officially designated nickname.

The prospect of having nine minutes of local inventory per hour for stations while My TV keeps five minutes of national time-as opposed to The CW’s model of three minutes of local time in prime time and syndicators’ tendency to share time 50-50-appealed to a number of stations even if they didn’t have a quick gut reaction to the concept of stripped English-language telenovelas, with which My TV plans to launch Sept. 5.

Two telenovela franchises, “Desire” at 8 p.m. and “Secrets” at 9 p.m., will feature stories that run in 13-week, 65-episode arcs with recap hours to run on weekends (most likely Saturday nights) and are expected to debut with a Spanish-language soundtrack available via Secondary Audio Programming channels on viewers’ sets.

This would make the stories accessible to Hispanic audiences that are familiar with and faithful to telenovelas.

Mr. Abernethy said My Network will offer original programming 52 weeks a year.

“We’re not specifically targeting [Hispanic audiences]. We think that everyone will like watching them,” Mr. Abernethy said.

Backup programming concepts in development range from a crime-focused magazine show produced by Fox News to a reality-romance, celebrity-civilian show titled “Celebrity Love Island.”

Among the questions most frequently asked is how many TV stations’ local sports commitments and the stripped programs can be accommodated simultaneously?

“We’ll work around that,” Mr. Abernethy said. “We have the Yankees on our UPN station in New York [WWOR-TV]. If we have a Friday Yankees night game, we’ll figure out how to make certain people follow and stay with the stories.”

Another question has been whether the long-arc strip programming model will make it harder to make adjustments if something is underperforming.

Mr. Abernethy said the Fox-owned stations with which My TV starts, like all TV stations, depend on ratings and ad revenues, “so we’re going to make decisions that are in their best interests. We will have the same flexibility any broadcaster has. If something is not working as well as it should, we’re going to fix it.

“What we are trying to avoid is the model that failed for 10 years with WB and UPN, where you’re constantly failing, trying and developing 20 shows to keep 10 hours of programming on the air.

“We think we’ve got two shows to get right” at a time, he said-and only two shows to promote at any given time, instead of the weekly episodes of 20 or more shows per week on other networks.

The media plan for promotion of My TV’s launch includes ads on sister Fox channels and News Corp.’s recently acquired MySpace.com, the personal Web page community, whose name raises the obvious question of whether cross-promotion might even involve content created for MySpace that might have implications for My TV.

“We’re in discussions about a number of ideas, but there’s been no formal discussions with them,” Mr. Abernethy said.