Hype Reigns at My Network TV Presentation

News Corp. Touts 'Novelas' as the Next Reality Shows

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In typical Roger Ailes style, My Network TV opened its first upfront presentation by bashing the other guy. The packed event at the Hilton Hotel here began with clips from the Mel Brooks classic "Young Frankenstein" of Gene Wilder manically creating the monster as the words "Insanity -- doing something again and again and expecting a different result" flashed on screen.
Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes

The allusion: broadcast network TV.

News Corp., caught off guard when Time Warner and CBS Corp. announced in January they would combine the netlets WB and UPN to form broadcast network the CW, scrambled to fill the void for its local stations, such as New York's Channel 9 (a UPN station) that lost out to other local stations in the market that were chosen to get CW programming. My Network TV, which will air two hours of soap opera-style programming each night, was News Corp.'s answer.

Bigger than the Super Bowl
Never prone to dampening expectations, Fox Stations Group Chairman Roger Ailes talked up the largely unproven concept of English-language "novelas" in the U.S. with a show reel highlighting the format's ratings in various places around the world from Moscow to Manila. The new drama format is bigger than the Super Bowl and bigger than the World Cup, the reel's voice-over intoned. "It is without question the most epic success story of international television"

The unchecked hype drew giggles from the press gallery. Fox Stations Group president Jack Abernethy said: "They are not unlike the last phenomenon to come from overseas -- reality [shows]."

My Network TV, which has 82% distribution as of today, unveiled highlights of its two main programming serials, "Desire" and "Secret Obsession." Each serial will have a 13-week story arc with a new story starting every three months.

Murder and making out
The first story line under the "Desire" label is "Table for Three," about two brothers who are in love with the same woman, while the first under "Secret Obsessions" is "Fashion House," starring Bo Derek as a scheming business woman who tries to ruin her son's relationship. If the clips are representative of the whole series, people will be murdered or making out in every scene. Talk about engagement.

The new network's Web component, not surprisingly, involves News Corp. social network MySpace.com. The Web site will showcase the show characters doing everything from explaining the latest storylines to offering fashion tips and cooking hints. another Web component, "Casting Call," lets viewers send in audition videos and have online users vote for the best ones. Local station Web sites will be linked to MySpace.com.

All about the integrations
Bob Cesa, exec VP-ad sales, who is selling My Network TV, explained the advantages of working with a company that owns the scripts to the shows. Show clips illustrated how brands could be integrated into the novelas, one showed a character asking a parking valet for her Lexus, while another character asked for Evian water. Logos of Apple, Nokia, Smirnoff Ice and Cannon also appeared in the clips. "There are no third parties to impede brand immersion," Mr. Cesa said.

Mr. Cesa stressed the virtues year-round programming strategy, adding that the format's liberal use of cliffhangers would help keep viewers through the breaks.

"And if it all goes wrong, we'll just blame [NBC Entertainment President] Kevin Reilly," said Mr. Ailes. A video clip jokingly claimed the network was negotiating a novela role for Leslie Moonves. The CBS Corp. CEO is partly responsible for the creation of My Network TV, thanks to the merger of onetime CBS sibling UPN with Time Warner's WB. "Table for Three," anyone?

Correction: As originally published, the sentence attributed to the voiceover on the video reel shown at the presentation was incorrectly reported. The correct sentence has been added: "It is without question the most epic success story of international television"
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