Big Indie to Shift MyTV Schedule

May 29, 2006  •  Post A Comment

MyNetworkTV’s San Francisco affiliate, KRON-TV, will break from the pattern of all other MyTV affiliates by keeping syndicated hit “Dr. Phil” at 8 o’clock weeknights and delaying MyTV’s lineup of “Desire” and “Secret Obsession” until 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively.

The move should pay off in both ratings and revenue for the station and its network. It could also serve as a model for other MyTV affiliates to try matching up MyTV fare with syndicated shows proven to draw the viewers the new network is targeting.

But KRON’s move will come with a price.

The Young Broadcasting-owned station will give up its 9-10 p.m. local newscast to accommodate the MyNetworkTV prime-time lineup. KRON will have been an independent station for nearly six years when MyTV launches nationally Sept. 5.

The loss of the hour-long newscast is “the unfortunate part” of the change, said Young Broadcasting President Deb McDermott during a telephone interview last week about KRON’s prime-time plans.

No layoffs are expected as a result of the demise of the 9 p.m. news. The station currently produces seven and a half hours of local news per weekday and still has 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. The 9 p.m. resources can be applied to those other newscasts.

Ms. McDermott and KRON President and General Manager Mark Antonitis said the decision to keep “Dr. Phil” at 8 p.m. should come as no surprise, even though they took their time to consider other options. Chief among those options was running MyNetworkTV in pattern from 8 to 10 p.m.

“This [out-of-pattern strategy] is the one we had assumed we were going with from the very beginning,” Ms. McDermott said.

Keeping “Dr. Phil” in prime time was important to KRON. The King World-distributed talk-advice show is established in prime time among the San Francisco audience. The show has a strong track record at 8 p.m. in particular. In that time period, “Dr. Phil” often outdraws its competition in the key female demographics that MyTV is hoping to attract with its “short dramatic series,” as MyTV executives now refer to their 13-week telenovelas.

“We’ve got a good female lineup,” Mr. Antonitis said. “We’ve got stability in the lineup where it counts.”

Mark Fratrick, VP of research and industry analysis for BIA Financial Network, said he suspects that using “Dr. Phil” to give MyTV’s lineup a boost is “going to lead Young Broadcasting to have a noticeable increase [in station revenues] in 2006.”

“We don’t expect to see any negative impact,” Ms. McDermott said.

Mr. Fratrick said BIA estimated last year that in 2006 KRON would do $58.9 million in station revenues, a 9.6 share of the San Francisco market, ranking fifth among station ownership in the market.

If the station’s prime-time strategy works, KRON may outperform the market-average, single-digit increases that are predicted for San Francisco, which still remains somewhat vulnerable due to lingering effects of the dot-com crash.

Mr. Fratrick wondered if success with KRON’s prime-time model might lead to other MyTV affiliates assembling similar schedules.

MyTV was inspired by the need to find the most promising and efficient way to program prime time on nine Fox-owned UPN stations left out in the cold when Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. announced in late January that they were shuttering UPN and The WB and launching The CW from the best of both programming lineups.

MyTV will program only 12 hours over six nights per week, with the bulk of the commercial inventory going to the affiliates instead of to the network.

“We believe that long term, MyNetworkTV is going to be a very big success,” Mr. Antonitis said.

An executive familiar with the MyTV strategy said that had the new network felt strongly about its lineup playing in pattern in San Francisco, the fifth-largest market in the country, it could have made a deal with two other stations that wanted the affiliation.

Ms. McDermott said the idea of anchoring KRON’s prime time with “Dr. Phil” was injected into discussions with MyTV from the beginning.

“We fought hard to get the affiliation,” Mr. Antonitis said. “They wanted us and we wanted them.”