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MyNet Broadening Its Focus

Apr 2, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Six months ago local station executives heavily promoted (and explained) MyNetworkTV’s femme-focused launch schedule of all English-language telenovelas.

Now those same broadcasters are airing a prime-time slate that ranges from two nights of novelas to the male-targeted “IFL Battleground,” a team-based professional martial arts franchise. Movie nights and Elton John and Anna Nicole Smith specials have been slotted somewhere in between.

It’s a lot to drum up interest in. But MyNetwork affiliates are pledging patience. Several station executives said the fledgling network is supplying the proper tools to promote its new fare.

“We’re very happy with their response,” said Bill Butler, programming and promotion for Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has 17 MyNetworkTV stations.

MyNetwork is providing proprietary video players, logistical help, and a variety of content and previews for the affiliate Web sites, as well as highly repeatable on-air content related to scheduled programming. For example, stations will get a half-hour special on the making of “Hotel Rwanda,” the 2004 feature film that will make its network debut on MyNetworkTV in July. The making-of short is meant to be run multiple times.

“As Anna’s World Turns,” designed to tap public interest in the late Anna Nicole Smith, was the first special to air on the network.

Fox and 20th Television launched MyNetwork to help their own and other stations’ program prime time after UPN and The WB were merged into The CW in Sept. 2006. The CW left many stations without a prime-time programming partner.

“We did really well with the Anna Nicole special,” said Paul Franklin, executive VP of MyNetworkTV affiliate relations. “We’re looking at doing more of those kinds of things.”

“Happy Birthday, Elton,” Elton John’s two-hour 60th birthday concert, the highest-profile event yet scheduled for MyNetworkTV, airs April 5. The special began getting invaluable promotion the morning after the March 25 concert at Madison Square Garden with the ladies of “The View” devoting precious time talking up their experience.

Using Their Own Air

Station executives said their own air is the most effective platform on which to promote MyNetwork programming. That goes for a range of stations, including those with powerhouse lead-ins to prime time as well as smaller MyNetwork outlets that are part of a duopoly.

Mark Antonitis, president and general manager of Young Broadcasting’s MyNetworkTV in San Francisco, has the fortune of the highly rated “Entertainment Tonight,” “The Insider” and “Dr. Phil” from 7 to 9 each weeknight. Those shows “are all strong promotion platforms,” he said. Mr. Antonitis, like some of his MyNetworkTV counterparts, plans to wait to see what MyNetwork programming gets ratings traction, and then emphasize them in promotions.

“What I don’t want to do is overspend,” he said.

Bill Lamb, president and general manager of Block Communications’ MyNetworkTV affiliate WYMO-TV and Fox-affiliated WDRB-TV in Louisville, likewise will not rush into a big, expensive promotional campaign for the second time in MyNetworkTV’s freshman season.

Mr. Lamb already has made extensive use of the Fox station to promote WYMO. His biggest captive audiences will be assembled April 21. That’s when his Fox affil broadcasts eight hours of a popular local festival and fireworks celebration that starts with 10 percent of the market tuning in — and peaks at 30 percent with the fireworks finale. That same day Fox has a big NASCAR race, the Subway 500, which Mr. Lamb will broadcast on his MyNetworkTV station.

Like Mr. Antonitis, Mr. Lamb is waiting to see which programming clicks but he said he thinks “Battleground” is “going to go pretty well.”

Indeed, data from Nielsen Media Research shows the first three Monday nights of “Battleground” boosted key male demos watching the network by 225 percent to 1,000 percent compared to the novellas on Mondays in February. There was a 46 percent increase over those same three nights among women 18-plus.

Fourteen of Sinclair’s MyNetworkTV affiliates are part of duopolies. Mr. Butler said the station group has always been aggressive about promoting on its own air as well as off. The group will be particularly intent on promotion starting in April for “a full May sweeps.”

Mr. Butler also is patient. He remembers the “fits and starts,” “whaddaya wanna do today” programming roots of Fox Broadcasting, but he notes: “We all have to live with today’s ratings.”

Mr. Franklin says the male skew of “Battleground” is compatible with the sports programming on a number of affiliates, but “we’re not chasing the young male viewer. We’re out there looking for ratings like everyone else is.”

Now, signs indicate “we have a much more diversified audience than we did,” he said.