MyNetwork may drop all-telenovela strategy

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MyNetworkTV is considering cutting back on its strategy of "all telenovelas, all the time" in light of underwhelming ratings, sources said.

The network, which News Corp. launched September 5 largely with stations left out in the cold by the WB-UPN merger, has a schedule comprising two 13-week drama strips, with new episodes airing Monday through Friday and hourlong recaps airing Saturday.

But network executives are exploring other options, which could include reducing the number of nights on which the dramas air or throwing nondrama series programming into the mix, sources said.

The first two dramas, Desire and the Bo Derek-Morgan Fairchild starrer Fashion House, each averaged a miniscule 0.7 household rating/1 share over their 13-week run.

The newest dramas--Wicked Wicked Games, starring Tatum O'Neal, and Watch Over Me, starring Casper Van Dien and Catherine Oxenberg--debuted December 6. In their first week on the air (a partial week consisting of three days because the shows debuted on a Wednesday), Games averaged a 0.7/1 among households, while Watch averaged a 0.6/1.

As for any possible on-air changes, it's believed there's no timetable for a potential revamping of the programming strategy.

A MyNetworkTV representative declined comment, other than to say "we have lots of meetings."

When News Corp. announced the network in February, it said that it had several shows in development along with the dramas. Among those in the works were Catwalk, a reality-competition series involving aspiring models; Celebrity Love Island, bringing together six celebrities and six singles; America's Brainiest, a quiz show; and On Scene, an investigative series that would put viewers at the scenes of crimes and with the people who solve them.

But at the Television Critics Association press tour in July, Fox executives indicated that the network had abandoned those projects in favor of the telenovela-like serials. Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy was firm on his stance that the network was committed to making the telenovela model work, with each show having its full 13-week run no matter the ratings, and likened MyNet to such "genre-driven" networks as Lifetime and Fox News Channel.

Three months later, at a Hollywood Radio & Television Society panel discussion in October, Abernethy admitted that "the ratings are not what we want them to be" after a month and a half on the air. But, he added at the time, "this is the best thing for us. If something better comes along, we'll consider it, but right now this is the best model for us."

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