There’s good news and bad news for MyNetworkTV’s new telenovelas.
The good news is the network’s second batch of prime-time soaps, which premiered last week, managed to maintain the same viewership as the first round.
That’s also the bad news.
MyNetwork’s “Wicked Wicked Games” and “Watch Over Me,” which debuted Dec. 6, were essentially flat in their first two days compared with the network’s recent Wednesday average. They also were down slightly versus the premieres of their predecessors.
While the ratings show MyNetworkTV is not losing viewers now that its initial round of telenovelas has concluded, they also show the programming isn’t making the gains necessary to justify their prime-time station commitments.
News Corp. launched MyNetworkTV on Sept. 5 with a unique Monday-through-Friday telenovela programming format as a counterstrike to The CW, which also debuted this fall and was formed by merging UPN and The WB. Each self-contained MyNetwork series lasts 13 weeks before being replaced by a new show.
In the metered market overnights, the “Games” premiere earned a 1.0 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. Former time slot occupant “Desire” premiered with a 1.1, and averaged a 0.9 during the previous four Wednesdays.
“Watch” did slightly worse, premiering with a 0.8. Prior series “Fashion House” premiered with a 1.3, and averaged a 1.0 on the same night.
The premiere had a bit of an uphill battle, as it was scheduled against the finale of The CW’s most popular show, the similarly female-targeted “America’s Next Top Model.”
“We passed the torch pretty well,” Twentieth Television President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Cook said. “We didn’t do a lot of promotion for this-it was really about moving from one arc and series to another.”
There was an enormous schism between viewership in New York and Los Angeles. In New York, “Watch Over Me” garnered a well-above-average 1.8 rating, while in L.A. the show received a nearly nonexistent 0.2.
MyNetwork has conducted extensive focus-group testing during its first telenovela wave in an effort to fine-tune its formula. The new dramas are supposed to be better paced, with fewer flashbacks and more accessible story lines for viewers tuning in midseason.
Mr. Cook said the channel is preparing to launch a promotional effort.
“A good bit of the audience are still concerned when they hear `Monday though Friday,”‘ Mr. Cook said. “Our promotion is going to let the audience know they can come in for an enjoyable hour, and tune in once a week and catch up.”
Though MyNetwork conducted some promotions such as newspaper, outdoor and MySpace ads, as well as a tie-in with Wal-Mart, press coverage of the second cycle premieres seemed scant.
Brad Adgate, senior VP of research for Horizon Media, said he doesn’t expect the ratings to increase post-premiere.
“These shows pretty much have the same look and feel,” he said. “I’m not surprised at the rating and don’t anticipate it changing too much. Obviously this isn’t resonating with the public.”
But Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz TV Group, said there’s not enough of a documented history with telenovela programming to make assumptions about future performance.
“I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen,” he said. “And better to keep the ground they have than lose ground.”
Mr. Cook said MyNetwork is conducting focus groups and trying to figure out how best to allocate resources.
“We’re still trying to learn what it is that motivates our audience,” he said. “We’ve done tens of thousands of interviews and different forms of research testing. Once we digest all this, we’ll take the appropriate forms of action. You don’t want to throw a lot of money out there without knowing your target.”