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News Corp. Unveils My Network TV

2/22/2006 09:58:00 AM Eastern

Hoping to turn a void at its stations into an opportunity, News Corp. Wednesday laid out plans for a new broadcast channel/network/service, My Network TV.

The service, which launches Sept. 5, will be anchored by nine News Corp. stations being abandoned as that network merges with The WB to create The CW, plus one independent. But News Corp. executives are rushing to sign up orphans or even snag strong stations that might otherwise have signed up with The CW.

News Corp. President Peter Chernin, Fox Stations Chairman Roger Ailes, and station execs Jack Abernethy (CEO) and Dennis Swanson (president) began laying out their plans for the new network in a presentation to executives at a Manhattan hotel.

At launch, My Network TV will consist of 12 hours of original content per week, airing at 8-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It will reach 24% of the country, according to News Corp.

Chernin said the service was intended to be profitable from day one. It will launch with two hour-long dramas, English-language telenovelas Desire and Secrets from co-owned Twentieth Television. The shows will be stripped (five days a week), with 13-episode arcs.

20th Century Television had planned to syndicate Desire, which is based on scripts translated from telenovelas aired in Latin America. But the syndication plans were scrapped when UPN announced Jan. 23 that it would go dark.
 
Chernin said My Network TV will have fresh programming 52 weeks a year. Shows in development include reality programs Catwalk, Celebrity Love Island, Transformed, and America's Brainiest, as well as On Scene, the last a Fox News-produced magazine.

Twentieth TV is also negotiating a format deal with American Idol producer FremantleMedia North America
The stations and network will split the ad inventory. Early word was that north of half the national inventory would go to the stations.Chernin compared starting the new service to the launch of Fox News Channel (FNC) against CNN, when nobody liked Fox's odds. FNC is now the cable-news ratings leader.

“We believe at Fox, maybe with a certain amount of arrogance, that we have an unprecedented track record of launching new networks,” Chernin says.

Ailes told the crowd that he wanted to send CBS chief Leslie Moonves a thank-you note for freeing up the stations.

Swanson called it a huge opportunity. That opportunity is to brand the stations in a crowded universe by combining a local and national identity.

Almost immediately after the new CW network was announced in late January, Fox removed any mention of the network from its UPN affiliates and began talking about creating its own unwired network.

And Fox wasn't looking to affiliate with The CW, even in markets where its UPN affiliation would not be bumped by CBS or Tribune stations (Tribune, a former WB co-owner, has committed its stations to the new network). Affiliation with The CW "certainly makes no sense" for the four Fox O&Os in markets, such as those in Orlando and Phoenix, where there are no stations owned by Tribune or CBS, Abernethy said last week.

"Handing over 30 hours of valuable time, receiving little inventory to sell and being asked to pay comp makes no sense for our TV stations,” he wrote. “This would ensure losses, lessen growth opportunities and continue station brand confusion in this competitive media landscape.”

There is actually already a Boston independent using the“My TV” moniker. Shooting Star Broadcasting’s independent WZMY goes by the name My TV and filed a service mark application to trademark the name last summer. The application is pending. WZMY uses My TV instead of its call letters in station promos and TV listings. Station President Diane Sutter said she was unaware of Fox’s plans, but added, “I am happy that Fox liked our idea so much they copied it.”

WZMY’s My TV is a hyper-local station with a nightly magazine show, infotainment programing for local advertisers, and heavy coverage of local events. The station’s Web site is aptly named mytvstation.tv. To play up its local connections, WZMY features viewers in promos and lets the audience chime in on scheduling decisions.--Allison Romano contributed to this story.

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