Fledgling Network Scraps Prime-time Soaps to Focus on Men

Road to the Upfront: MyNetworkTV

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Believe it or not, the TV upfront is right around the corner, and Advertising Age is here to help you keep track of the players in both broadcast and cable. This week we look at MyNetworkTV.

The player: MyNetworkTV

Key execs: Roger Ailes, chairman, Fox Television Stations; Bob Cesa, exec VP-ad sales and cable programming; David Barrington, senior VP-ad sales; Greg Meidel, president, MyNetworkTV
Bob Cesa, exec VP-ad sales and cable programming, MyNetworkTV
Bob Cesa, exec VP-ad sales and cable programming, MyNetworkTV

The ratings game: The News Corp.-owned broadcast network kicked off its first season last fall with a quartet of telenovelas that aired five nights a week for the first 13 weeks of the season. "Desire," "Fashion House," "Watch Over Me" and "Wicked, Wicked Games" attracted an average 781,000 prime-time viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The network announced in March it planned to scrap the soaps after the current ones finish their runs. A new focus on men and reality programming will start to emerge. The network scored all-time highs with Elton John's 60th-anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden on April 7 (which reached 1 million adults 18 to 49) and an Anna Nicole Smith special (which scored a 0.6 in the same demo).

What you'll hear: In lieu of a presentation, ad-sales chiefs Bob Cesa and David Barrington are taking MyNetworkTV on the road to 18 agencies this year. Since it nixed the telenovelas and added the International Fight League to its lineup, the network's ratings among men 18 to 34 and 18 to 49 have gone up between 200% and 500%. Mr. Cesa and Mr. Barrington are also willing to work with brands -- more than 25 products were written into the network's telenovelas. They plan to do the same with reality programming next season.

Digital game: MyNetworkTV.com is updated daily with exclusive content and recaps of its original programming and IFL coverage, all of which it will look to pair with pre-roll ads and banners. The network likely will participate in the News Corp./NBC online video project but will not shop any specifics in its presentations.

Last year's upfront: After patching together a network in three months and acquiring the affiliates left in the dust by the UPN/WB merger, MyNetworkTV wrote about $50 million in its first upfront.

The buyer's verdict: Bill Carroll, programming director at Katz Media Group, said the fledgling network is wise to focus on movies, sports and reality after initial programming didn't yield positive results. "Running a telenovela for basically a period of 13 weeks, five nights a week, was risky, and it could have succeeded because that concept works around the world. It just didn't work here."
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