CW set to cede Sundays

Network in process of programming only five nights

Starting this fall, the CW network will likely be programming only five nights a week.

After it experimented unsuccessfully with outsourcing its Sunday lineup to an outside company, MRC, last year, the CW has been plagued by rumors that it would be giving Sunday night back to its affiliates.

The network Monday night confirmed it was in the process of doing that.

 "As we plan our 2009-10 fall launch, we are in talks with several of our top affiliate partners about a number of creative and mutually beneficial actions that will build on our growing record of success," said a statement from the network. "These discussions include an evolution of the strategy, which began this season, to focus the CW's resources on Monday through Friday nights. As a result, we are now exploring the transition of Sunday night to our affiliates."

After the MRC-produced Sunday series for the CW flopped last fall, the network replaced them with library MGM movies and reruns of CBS' drama "Jericho." That is exactly the type of programming that an independent station would run, but it controls the entire ad inventory, not just a small portion like they do under a network affiliate deal. And some of the affiliates are planning to do just that by approaching MGM about a movie package.

The move won't impact CW's development. In an indication it won't be pursuing original programming on Sundays, the network's pilots this season have been focused on Monday through Friday nights.

Still, the network brass had vigorously denied a plan to surrender Sunday. (From THR's March Q&A with entertainment president Dawn Ostroff):

THR: Are you going to give Sunday back to affiliates?

Ostroff: No.

THR: A firm no.

Ostroff: No.

THR: So what are you thinking about in terms of programming for Sunday?

Ostroff: We still have plenty of time to schedule the network, so it would be premature to say, but I can tell you the movies are doing pretty well for us.

The CW is not the only network mulling dropping a night of programming. In December, NBC Uni's Jeff Zucker actually pointed to the CW's six-night schedule as an argument that broadcast network can't continue to program seven nights a week.

"Can we continue to program seven nights a week? One of our competitors doesn't," he said.