MyNetworkTV's Telenovelas Draw Small Audience

Many Ad Breaks Taken Up by News Corp. Divisions

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The sound of bitch-slapping rang out across the nation last night as News Corp. made broadcast history by launching English-language "telenovelas" as part of a new two-hour block on Fox stations and a raft of freshly signed affiliates.

But the ad breaks demonstrated just how tough a time the team at Twentieth Television has had selling the concept of Hispanic soap operas to advertisers, who are largely waiting to see if it takes off.

Low ratings numbers
Advertisers, it seems, were smart to take a wait-and-see approach. Ratings for the two shows were not barnstormers. "Desire" came in with a 1.1 rating and 2 share, while "Fashion House" brought in a 1.3/2.

"This was in the range," said Bob Cook, president Twentieth Television. "We were probably a tad higher, but we look at this as a marathon, not a sprint. We're not going to be able to project or calculate or get a handle on the success until December or January."

According to Joanne Burns, exec VP-research marketing and new media, the shows' audience was 60% female, a fact that the company is viewing positively. "Desire," which is about two brothers in love with the same woman, averaged a 0.7 rating among women and a 0.5 among men. "Fashion House," starring Bo Derek as an evil owner of a fashion company, did a 0.8 among women and a 0.7 among men. San Francisco, Miami and Houston were the strongest regional markets for the show.

Mr. Cook, who has been in charge of marketing the show, said: "We started from scratch a new network with new shows. The degree of difficulty is quite extraordinary."

MySpace presence
Mr. Cook said 40,000 unique users have visited Mynetworktv.com since the site launched yesterday, and he added that the new network would begin to build a presence on corporate sibling MySpace.com by connecting with musicians who might want their work to appear in programming.

The majority of advertisers during the telenovelas were companies at least partially owned by News Corp., including DirecTV, TV Guide, Fox and FX. Advertisers not backed by News Corp. included McDonald's, Geico, Target and Best Buy and Bally Fitness.

In addition, News Corp. seemed to be using commercial breaks on MyNetwork to head off the TV police at the gate (both "Desire" and "Fashion House" incorporate sexual themes into their storylines). The new network aired promotions for FoxFaith.com, which is a website aimed at selling Fox-produced Christian and family-friendly programming. Another spot was an Ad Council PSA about parental controls -- the spot shows a mother talking to mobsters about violence on TV. The commercial directs parents to a website, TheTVboss.org, which gives advice on using the V-Chip and understanding the rating system.

The network also posted slugs advertising the MyNetworkTV website, which has some original elements to encourage loyalty: a "My Music" area that asks users to vote for their favorite bands on the telenovelas, and a casting call area for prospective actors interested in appearing on the programs.
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