During the month of January, 19 new prime-time shows will debut, including nine on two brand new networks: Paramount Communications' and Chris Craft/United's The United Paramount Network and Warner Bros.' WB Television.
Add to that mix the launch of several new cable TV channels-including The History Channel, Home & Garden Television, CNN International and The Golf Channel-and an unprecedented number of TV station affiliation switches, and TV schedules and prime-time TV viewers will experience more confusion about what's on where than at any time.
Here's the line-up: On Jan. 11, WB launches the first of its two consecutive nightly schedules, consisting of four half-hour comedies: "The Wayans Bros.," "The Parent 'Hood," "Unhappily Ever After" and "Muscle."
On Jan. 16, UPN debuts the first of its two-night schedule, which includes three one-hour dramas-"Star Trek: Voyager," "Marker" and "The Watcher-and two half-hour comedies-"Platypus Man" and "Pig Sty."
Meanwhile, Fox this month introduces three new Sunday night comedies: "Get Smart," "House of Buggin' " and "Dream On."
ABC adds two one-hour dramas, "Extreme" and "The Marshal," and the half-hour comedy "A Whole New Ballgame."
CBS introduces three half-hour comedies, "Cybill," "Double Rush" and "Women of the House."
And NBC reintroduces "The Mommies."
"It would be interesting if just one new network was launching, but we've got two new networks and a surprising number of changes on the four established networks all taking place in January, with big changes taking place on Monday, Wednesday and even Thursday nights," said Rob Frydlewicz, VP-director of media research at NW Ayer & Partners' The Media Edge, New York.
"With the new cable networks launching and with all the affiliation changes taking place, January is going to be a very interesting month to watch," added Mr. Frydlewicz, who predicted the main impact will be to Fox, and possibly ABC, because many of the new shows target younger viewers.
And the fledgling networks are not leaving it to chance that viewers will discover their new shows. Both UPN and WB are implementing huge advertising and promotional blitzes akin to a traditional fall season.
Joe Mandese coordinates MediaWorks.