MyNet adds two movie nights

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MyNetworkTV on Thursday unveiled a spring primetime schedule that will reduce the number of nights it airs drama strips to make way for two movie nights and an unscripted show centered on the International Fight League.

The changes, spurred by underwhelming ratings for the network's all-telenovela lineup, will take effect March 8, after the current dramas — "Wicked Wicked Games" and "Watch Over Me" — end their run. The new lineup will kick off with "MyMovie" nights from 8-10 Thursdays and Fridays. "The Rundown," starring the Rock, will air March 8, followed the next night by "Rocky IV," starring Sylvester Stallone. Meanwhile, "International Fight League's Total Impact" will air from 8-10 p.m. Mondays, with an encore presentation from 8-10 p.m. Saturdays.

MyNet debuted Sept. 5 with a schedule consisting of two hourlong drama strips airing Monday-Friday, with recap episodes on Saturday and two new shows scheduled to debut every 13 weeks. But in December, it surfaced that executives were rethinking that strategy after the dramas failed to find traction with viewers.

The network isn't doing away with the drama strips but will continue to air them on two nights only. The third pair of dramas consists of "American Heiress" and "Saints & Sinners," which will air with two back-to-back episodes from 8-10 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, respectively.

"Unfortunately, as good as the novelas are, the audience did not embrace them," said Greg Meidel, who was named president of MyNet last month. "The ratings were disappointing. We strategized and knew we needed to make changes and not wait until the fall. We're doing this not only because we want to improve the ratings on the network but for our affiliates as well. They have all been very patient, but we had a plan going in that we were going to implement and knew we had to do it."

As with the previous dramas, the newer ones will consist of a total 65 one-hour episodes. "Heiress" stars Alicia Leigh Willis in a story about a princess and a roughneck who are stranded together when their plane crashes, while "Saints" stars Maria Conchita Alonso, Charles Shaughnessy, Mel Harris and Robin Givens in a story centered around the Miami Beach hotel business. Both shows are produced by Twentieth Television.

"We do have a loyal audience for the novelas, but it's impossible to watch five nights a week," Meidel said. "Each new novela gets better than the last, but cutting them into a two-hour (block) will move the pacing better."

Meidel added that "Total Impact" will become "our version of 'Monday Night Football.' " The show follows the athletes, coaches and personalities of the IFL, a professional mixed martial arts organization where competitors compete in a team format. Twelve five-man teams will vie over a nine-month, 11-event season for the inaugural IFL Championship, with cameras following the action in and out of the ring.

Meidel said the "MyMovie" nights are intended as counterprogramming to the other broadcast networks and will be able to attract a mass audience. He declined to name other upcoming films for competitive reasons but said the network has been talking with all of the major studios about acquiring theatrical titles for Thursday nights and expects to be able to showcase broadcast network premieres of some titles.

"We are going to become a big customer for the studios," he said, adding that Friday nights will be reserved for more "classic" movies in various genres.

In addition, MyNet said it will air "The World Music Awards" on March 10.

MyNet executives are still mulling their strategy over the long term. Meidel said there could be another change in the telenovela schedule come fall and that execs are talking with "the biggest names in reality TV" about possible programming.
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