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MyNetworkTV Sticking With Telenovela Format

Jul 21, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Despite mention at its advertiser upfront presentation of programming outside the core genre, MyNetworkTV has developed only English-language telenovela-style programming for its first full season. That was the word from Jack Abernethy, CEO of Fox Television Stations, speaking at MyTV’s inaugural Television Critics Association press tour session Thursday afternoon in Pasadena, Calif.

One critic asked Mr. Abernethy whether MyTV would stick with the limited drama series format, which will run Monday through Friday, with a weekly recap episode on Saturday, without repeats for 13 weeks.

“We’re committed to roll these out one after the other,” he said. “The answer is yes. You have to jump in, stick with it, and make it happen.”

MyTV is cleared in 94 percent of the country and in 97 of the top 100 markets. It is targeting a female-skewing audience.

“Ours is not a model where two weeks in we do a little research, pull the show and put a game show on,” Mr. Abernethy said. “We’re sticking with this format.”

Affiliates signing up with MyTV are behind the telenovela concept, he said in the reporter’s scrum after the presentation, which featured MyTV talent Bo Derek and Morgan Fairchild.

“They know The WB and UPN did not succeed,” he said. “They had good people running them for 10 years, and each lost a ton of money for themselves. They have been very gracious about letting us go out and build a new model.”

MyTV is doing a 30-city promotional tour leading up to the network’s launch that will feature MyTV talent to help affiliates sell the new programming slate, Mr. Abernethy said.

In terms of MyTV affiliates that carry local sports, “We’ll be working around those as best we can,” he said, noting that several Fox-owned MyTV stations have sports commitments.

“It has come up, but we haven’t made a final decision,” he added. “The most important thing is to stay day-by-day rather than lose a day.”

While many national advertisers are taking a “wait and see” attitude with MyTV, Mr. Abernethy said, the network is “on target to meet our goal” to bring in $50 million in upfront sales.

“We believe our marketing offering is better than some of the others,” he added, noting that the name and the uniformity of the MyTV programming creates an economy of scale in terms of selling the network.

“The problem we had with UPN, it was a mish-mash of shows, plus wrestling. And CW is the same thing,” he said.

If national advertisers have been hesitant, local ad sales have been more brisk, Mr. Abernethy said.

“It’s selling well because local advertisers like reach, but they like frequency,” he said. “Being able to be on twice or three times in a prime-time environment is something you can’t get on stations with much less inventory.”

One critic in the scrum pressed the issue of a contingency if the telenovelas don’t work.

“If that ever happened, we would come up with a plan,” Mr. Abernethy said. “When UPN cratered, we had a network plan in 30 days. We could perhaps have a plan but we don’t anticipate not succeeding.”

“Our view is we’re going to execute and continue to make these better until they work,” he said.

In casting news, Oscar winner Tatum O’Neal has been cast in the lead role in MyTV’s “Art of Betrayal,” replacing Sean Young, who was initially cast in the role in the spring. Production on “Betrayal” begins this month and it will air in the 8 p.m. (ET) time slot in December.