As its telenovela ratings continue to sink, MyNetworkTV is bailing out of scripted programming altogether.
The network dropped plans to produce seventh and eighth cycles of telenovelas, and has ceased pursuing scripted content of any kind.
MyNetwork executives previously said they intended to scale back the telenovela programming that originally comprised the entire schedule. The network last week elected for a full-scale content reboot.
“We’re not developing anything scripted at this time,” MyNetwork President Greg Meidel told TelevisionWeek in an interview last week. “We don’t have one scripted project, other than telenovelas that have already been produced.”
Instead, Mr. Meidel said, the News Corp.-owned network, which has struggled to draw audiences with its telenovela content since its launch last fall, is in discussions with top reality producers to acquire new shows.
“The five major networks spend enormous amounts on development, and I don’t think we can outdo what they do in [comedies] `Family Guy’ or `Two and a Half Men,’ or [dramas] `House’ or `Grey’s Anatomy,”‘ he said. “But I think there’s some great reality projects out there that are available.”
MyNetwork launched in September. The network’s ratings have gone from low to abysmal since, frustrating the collection of stations that signed on to carry the network as an alternative to the newly formed CW.
The first round of telenovelas, which were stripped Monday through Friday, averaged about 950,000 viewers and a 0.4 rating among adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research. Since launching the second cycle in December, the audience dropped to an average 700,000 viewers and a 0.2 rating.
For comparison, if MyNetwork were on basic cable, it would be ranked just above BET among viewers and just above E! among adults 18 to 49.
The network is due for its first major schedule shakeup this month, when it debuts its final two telenovelas-“American Heiress” and “Saints & Sinners”-on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Mixed martial-arts fighting from International Fight League is set for Mondays, with movies on Thursdays and Fridays. The network recently announced an upcoming special on Anna Nicole Smith (“Anna Nicole Smith: A Centerfold Exposed,” produced by the team behind “Access Hollywood”), Elton John concert special “Happy Birthday Elton” and IFL fight night preview special “Countdown to Battleground.”
The new content-from young male-targeted fighting to Hollywood celebrity programming-raises the question of what MyNetwork’s post-telenovela brand will be. Mr. Meidel said his current concern isn’t to focus on a brand, but to “make some noise.” “There is meaning behind the madness,” he said. “I want people to know MyNet is out there, and there’s a huge percentage that do not know we exist.”
Mr. Meidel said he has particularly high expectations for IFL.
“We are utilizing the International Fight League the way USA has used WWF or the way Spike has used UFC,” he said. “Mixed martial arts has the ability to attract a large audience, with broad-based appeal that can be used to promote the other nights of the week.”
John Rash, senior VP at advertising agency Campbell Mithun, said for MyNetworkTV, reaching for young males-or any young demographic-is a better bet than telenovelas. “What MyNetwork still has of great value is distribution, and the more they can focus it on harder to reach younger males, the more success they may have,” he said.