TV Upfront

Syndicated or network? A new model

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With the marriage of UPN and The WB into The CW, and the quickly ensuing arrival of rival My Network TV, advertisers once again have a half-dozen major broadcast outlets.

But while media buyers are pretty sure how to value The CW-it's a network, they say-My Network TV is a different beast despite its name. News Corp.'s My Network TV is putting on a full court press to claim network rather than syndicated dollars, but where the money will come from is unknown.

"They have to get fully distributed to be treated like a network," says Mary Ann Foxley, exec VP-media director at Starcom USA, Chicago.

As of mid-April, My Network TV was cleared in 65% of the country, says Bob Cook, president-chief operating officer for Twentieth Television, News Corp.'s syndication arm, which is selling the network. He expects to reach 90% by June.

By comparison, buyers are treating The CW as a network, Ms. Foxley says, because its lineup includes known entities like "America's Next Top Model," "Gilmore Girls" and "Smallville." My Network TV's prime-time programs, consisting of telenovelas, are new and unfamiliar.

My Network TV must acclimate U.S. viewers to a 13-week story arc featuring a cliffhanger every night, says Bill Carroll, VP-director of programming for Katz Television Group. "The potential challenge Fox faces is convincing network buyers of a different scheduling-programming five nights a week."

Mr. Cook contends: "If you look at the broadcast landscape, we have come close to [the telenovela model] with 'CSI,' 'Law & Order,' the reality shows ... we are redefining the network model."

Meanwhile, The CW is positioning itself as a "best of" network to reach the 18-34 demo, with young women and African-Americans in particular. The network also will tap into the trend toward viewer involvement with the creation of "CW Live," to be announced at its upfront. "That will allow people to go online and make their own promos to air on the network," says Bill Morningstar, exec VP-media sales at The CW. "They can send pictures and mix with friends' pictures to go on the network."
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