No upfront presentation from MyNetwork TV

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In an unusual move, MyNetworkTV has decided not to hold an upfront presentation for media buyers and advertisers next month. Instead, executives are planning to meet with those groups on a smaller scale, going agency-by-agency to discuss their new schedule, which will see the addition of new reality programming in June as the scripted dramas are officially cut back to one night a week.

Greg Meidel, president of MyNet, and Bob Cesa, executive vp advertising sales at Twentieth Television and MyNet, said Tuesday that they wanted to meet with media buyers and advertisers on a more intimate level for several reasons.

"We're not going to do a traditional upfront presentation the week of May 14 in front of 3,000 people -- that's a one-way street," said Meidel, who joined the network in January. "Our story is unique, and we wanted to have more personal one-on-one conversations with the top agencies in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. ... This is an unconventional approach, but at this time in our history and life span, we need to get the message out and have interactive conversations."

MyNet, which launched in September, did give an upfront presentation last May to tout its all-telenovela strategy, which proved to be unsuccessful, but Meidel noted that cable networks like MyNet's sister channel FX have in the past also chosen not to give big, formal presentations.

Cesa added that the agencies have responded positively to the idea.

"This affords us the opportunity to do Q-and-As with clients, to customize our presentation so that it's more meaningful to their list of advertisers and to get feedback right away," he said. "At the end of the day, it's more convenient for them ... and they've been appreciative of our approach."

Meanwhile, Meidel said that starting the week of June 4, the scripted dramas will be relocated permanently to Wednesday nights. "American Heiress" will air from 8-9 p.m., while "Saints & Sinners" will air from 9-10 p.m.

MyNet launched with a schedule comprised of two drama strips, airing Monday-Friday, with recaps on the weekend. But in March, the network cut the low-rated dramas back to two nights a week -- with "Heiress" airing at 8-10 p.m. Tuesdays and "Saints" at 8-10 p.m. Wednesdays -- and added movie nights on Thursdays and Fridays and new unscripted series "IFL Battleground" on Mondays. But a couple weeks ago, MyNet said it would air specials -- ranging from "Hawaiian Tropic International Beauty Pageant" to "America's Trashiest Weddings" to "Eddie Murphy: 25th Anniversary of Delirious" -- on Tuesdays starting April 24 through May.

Meidel said the network's ratings growth from such shows as "IFL" (which has improved household ratings on Mondays by 40%-50%) and the movie nights (which has boosted household ratings by almost 100%) encouraged him to pursue new programming on Tuesday nights too. He said the network has been talking about potential projects with such reality producers as Mark Burnett (CBS' "Survivor"), Bruce Nash (Sci Fi Channel's "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?"), John Langley (Fox's "Cops") and Gary Benz (A&E Network's "Intervention").

Meidel added that the new reality programming, which will debut June 5, has yet to be determined but that he is expecting to make a decision in the next 10 days.

"We are truly looking for the reality series that can make the most noise and attract the biggest audience," he said.

Meidel said "Heiress" and "Saints" will finish out their runs in late fall and reiterated earlier comments that MyNet is not working on anything new in the scripted arena but focusing on reality. He added that he also wants to continue airing specials, noting that the two-hour Elton John concert special "Happy Birthday Elton," which aired earlier this month, gave MyNet its best ratings ever.

Cesa added that the recent changes to MyNet's schedule has brought in more advertisers.

"They're very excited that we're changing course," he said.

Looking ahead, MyNet's fall schedule "will be pretty consistent," Meidel said. "We want to promote better, market better and enhance our brand, and I think you do that by being consistent."
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