Even though the network consists of nine Fox stations and 175 affiliates, reaching 97% of the U.S., MyNetwork hasn't really proved it should be treated like a sixth network. It still hasn't completed its upfront negotiations, and it didn't even bother holding an upfront.
Analysts estimate it took in only $50 million in ad commitments last season, though MyNetwork executives expect to top that this year. Half its top 10 advertisers in 2006 consisted of direct-response advertisers and companies affiliated with its parent, News Corp., according to TNS Media Intelligence. (The network says it has secured more than 12 new sponsors in its upfront talks.)
"They have yet to find the formula that's going to work," said Debbie Bashem, senior VP-director of negotiation and activation for Interpublic Group's Mullen. Because MyNetwork's ratings are relatively low, she added, some local advertisers don't view its best programming as competitive with that of rivals.
Its programming last season was aimed at the coveted 18-to-49 demographic, but MyNetwork failed to deliver ratings a midtier cable network could brag about. An initial gambit -- night after night of soapy telenovelas -- was a dud.
Last week, it announced Monday and Saturday programs that seem to have more viewer appeal. On Saturdays from early September to late February, it will air "NFL Network: Total Access," a football-news, -previews and -highlights program. Starting in October, the network on Mondays will air "Celebrity Exposé," with in-depth profiles on subjects such as Lindsay Lohan, and "Control Room Presents," a showcase of recent concerts from musicians including John Mayer. There are also new reality shows on tap.
"Just give us a chance," said MyNetwork President Greg Meidel. "We have improved the schedule dramatically, and this is just a start." When conceived, MyNetwork was a clever way to make the best of a difficult situation. In early 2006, after CBS Corp. and Time Warner merged UPN and WB onto a single network, CW, News Corp. was left holding nine local TV stations that had previously aired UPN programs. News Corp. opted to start a network rather than fill airwaves with syndicated programming.
'Pretty big disappointment'
The company isn't happy with MyNetwork's debut. During an Aug. 8 conference call, News Corp. President-Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin called it "a pretty big disappointment for us this year." Program changes have already resulted in better performance, he said. "We think we've taken actions to improve them dramatically, though we still have a ways to go."
"We wanted to throw out a much wider net," Mr. Meidel said of the net's more varied schedule.
"Masterpiece Theatre" some of the new shows aren't, but some media buyers, smell a bargain. Reckitt Benckiser has been a large advertiser for just that reason. "It was an opportunity to get on the ground floor with a network and establish below-market pricing for years to come," said Jason Kanefsky, group account director at Havas' MPG. "Payoff for this type of investment requires patience and does not always come in year one."
Jackie Kulesza, VP-director at Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA, said, "We think their schedule bears investigating."
Source: TNS Media Intelligence