MyNetworkTV Counts on a September To Remember

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With its Sept. 5 debut looming, Fox’s MyNetworkTV (MNT) is revving up its marketing efforts. “Our affiliates are hungry for information and support,” says Twentieth Television President Bob Cook. “This is a network devised by station people for station people.”

The hard push begins right after MNT holds its upfront May 16 in New York. The network already has its initial programming set, with two English-language novelas, Secret Obsessions and Desire, running as five-night-a-week strips with weekend recaps.

The network has carriage in 126 markets representing 73% of the country, including recent deals with major station groups Pappas Telecasting and LIN Television. But MNT still needs to find affiliates in seven of the top 25 markets, including Philadelphia and Boston. MNT executives aim to reach 90% of U.S. homes by launch.

Even if distribution reaches that level, MNT faces challenges in attracting viewers. While The CW can rely on established programs, MNT is creating its brand from scratch. To get the word out, Cook says, MNT will use traditional media, including its affiliates and their sister stations, and emphasize guerilla and event marketing.

For example, several MNT telenovela stars appeared at last week’s Fiesta Broadway Cinco de Mayo celebration in Los Angeles, while others hit the Daytime Emmy Awards. Expect more of the same at summer concerts and sports events. Online, MNT will tie-in with corporate cousin MySpace.com, with Web pages for program stars. And, of course, MNT will rely heavily on its affiliates. “Branding gets its start and finish at the local level,” says Cook.

Some stations are already embracing their new identity. Fox’s nine owned-and-operated UPN stations dropped their UPN graphics soon after The CW announcement and are transitioning to “My” status. WWOR New York is going by “My 9,” and independent KDFI Dallas is “My 27” on its Web site. The rest are expected to follow suit this summer.

Some affiliates are going a step further. In Charlotte, N.C., future MNT affiliate WWWB is switching its call letters to WMYT and renaming itself My TV 12. Weigel Broadcasting’s WAAT South Bend, Ind., changed its name to WMYS.

In San Francisco, Young Broadcasting’s independent KRON is taking a more measured approach. The station plans to use MNT in some parts of its branding, perhaps in prime time, while holding onto its well-known KRON 4 News, too.

“We have a strong brand in KRON 4 and a new partner in My Network,” says KRON President Mark Antonitis. “We can make a happy marriage with both.”

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