MyNetworkTV's Advertising Upfront: A Ways To Go

PASADENA, CALIF. -- Although other broadcast networks have completed their upfront sales activities, MyNetworkTV could be looking at the rest of the summer to finish.

"We have a ways to go," admitted Jack Abernethy, CEO of Fox Television Stations--who along with Bob Cook, president and chief operating officer of Twentieth Television, runs MyNetworkTV. Abernethy said this after a presentation for the new network at the Television Critics Association meeting here.

National advertisers are taking a slower approach, said Abernethy. MyNetworkTV, with its slate of two English-language closed-end soaps, otherwise known as telenovelas, is an unproven commodity. He said the national advertising goal was still $50 million.

Some national media buyers are analyzing MyNetworkTV as syndication programming--especially since its telenovelas were initially sold that way. All that means it could be a while before its upfront sales process is completed.

"They are taking a wait-and-see attitude," said Abernethy. Of deals made so far, he said network cost-per-thousand viewer prices were "lower, but close to other networks."

In contrast, he said, "Local [ad sales] have been good."

Unlike other networks, where stations might get two or three minutes an hour to sell, MyNetworkTV gives its stations nine minutes, with the network keeping five to sell to national advertisers. All that is a plus to stations.

For local advertisers, Abernethy said, MyNetworkTV is an easy concept to sell because MNTV will be a network that will only air telenovelas. Abernethy said recently the network changed its programming strategy that had included reality and game shows to supplement the telenovelas.

MyNetworkTV is fully committed to telenovelas--regardless of ratings. For "Desire," MNTV has already produced all its 65 episodes for its scheduled 13-week run, said Paul Buccieri, president of programming for Twentieth Television. "Fashion House" is about half completed, said Buccieri. Several other 13-week closed-end telenovelas are in the works.

MyNetworkTV will launch September 5. But Abernethy admitted that some MNTV stations--especially former WB stations--are still contracted to run programming for several days after the MNTV launch. That will mean those MNTV stations will air those shows, but possibly not during MNTV's scheduled Monday to Friday 8-10 p.m. "in pattern" time periods.

Abernethy said MNTV will have more shows running "in pattern" than the CW. Concerning ratings, MNTV doesn't have "any specific expectations," said Abernethy. "UPN has been trending down a bit. That's a concern [as we launch our network.]"

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