MyNetwork TV Signs Affiliate Deal, Positive About Future
The network tore up original 2006 affiliate agreements, now that it has shifted programming strategy. And it has inked new deals with 140 affiliates, covering 86% of the country.
That's down from the approximately 175 stations it had a year ago, reaching 97% of U.S. households.
But MyNetworkTV Executive Vice President Paul Franklin said he expects station groups, such as Nexstar Broadcasting, Gray Television and Newport Television, to dot I's and cross T's on new contracts soon -- which will move the network further along to so-called full distribution, or about 97%, again.
"We're really confident that we'll be back where we were and probably even more so," Franklin said, referring to the expected addition of several small market affiliates.
The markets where MyNetworkTV stations are still not covered by new agreements include Harrisburg, Pa. and Jacksonville (both part of Newport). Bob Prather, Gray COO, has said the company will re-sign with the network.
MyNetworkTV is seeking one-year affiliate deals as it adopts a "hybrid" programming approach with off-network dramas, original productions of "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" and "WWE Friday Night SmackDown" in its lineup. Its new season begins Sept. 28.
Franklin said stations have re-upped because they appreciate MyNetworkTV's ratings growth -- up 31% among adults 18-to-49 last season -- and the opportunity to continue to build network brand equity in their markets. (The network's average of 732,000 18-to-49 viewers still trails five cable networks.)
"Keeping the branding was very important to the affiliates," Franklin said.
Getting to 97% coverage is key for MyNetworkTV on the sales front. While the network splits ad time with the affiliates (seven minutes per hour each Monday-Thursday), it has about 18 minutes to sell itself during the two hours of "SmackDown" on Fridays, its highest-rated show.
MyNetworkTV has begun using a "Turn It On" tag in on-air promotions in advance of the new season. It also plans to use some of the "SmackDown" stars on early-season episodes of "5th Grader" for cross-promotion. Oct. 2 will bring a "Decade of SmackDown" show, marking the 10-year anniversary of the WWE series that has also been on UPN and the CW.