The CW and MyNetwork: this fall season’s wild cards?

With CBS and Time Warner’s announcement on January 24, 2006 that they would combine their efforts into one network, The CW, direct response media buyers were licking their lips in anticipation. This new merger would leave one station per market without a network affiliation and essentially leave them open to buying syndicated programming for their prime time areas. Fantasies began to pop up of Jerry Springer and Maury Povich running in prime time, along with a variety of ethnically centered syndicated sitcoms. Oh, the possibilities …
In February, however, News Corp and Rupert Murdoch threw their proverbial monkey wrench into the works when they announced the formation of MyNetwork TV. This new affiliate network was a response by Murdoch to fill the gap left in the prime time by the merger of CBS’s WB and Time Warner’s UPN. With the originally announced programming lineup of reality-based shows and telenovellas, media buyers could still see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. While the possibilities are limited for new areas, there was still hope of capturing the 18-34 demographic. However, this was not to be, and in its first season MyNetwork TV has decided to run a steady diet of the telenovella-type programming in prime time five days per week. Dreams crushed? Not quite.
What does this all mean to the Career College Sector?
In all honesty, the switch to The CW and MyNetwork TV will have little effect on our advertising efforts in most cases. Daytime lineups where we seek the majority of our leads will remain, for the most part, unchanged except for the normal program shuffling that occurs in September as new shows are rolled out and underperforming shows hit the cutting room wastebasket.
"We have seen little, if any, movement in rates in most markets from the local affiliates," said Justin Gill, Associate Media Director of PlattForm. "The most notable changes are occurring in markets where the local stations that once carried UPN programming are now becoming The CW."
Why is this? Well, The CW is placing national broadcasting once exclusive to The WB in the 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm time frame. On the local stations that carried The WB programming, there is relatively little change in rates as the same number of available spots will remain. However, the local UPN stations will now have less spot availability in these areas because a large portion is being sold to national accounts. Simple supply and demand in effect here: less inventory + same demand = rate increase. The actual increase will vary from market to market, but frequency will be an issue across the board.
A rethinking of the commercial
In an effort to retain a greater share of the 18-34 demographic attention in prime time, The CW has reworked its model of the commercial and will be moving toward a model some of us may remember from the early days of FOX in the ’90s: the 30-second mini-show. These mini-shows of the ’90s spawned family favorites like the Simpsons (that got its start as a mini-show in the Tracy Ullman Show on Fox). To make these mini-shows more appealing to advertisers, The CW will have these spots sponsored for the full 30 seconds by advertisers. This may be an area where our industry can benefit from this shift in prime time. The rethinking of the commercial is aimed at keeping younger viewers, who normally channel surf or DVR through the commercials, tuned in to advertisers’ messages.
What can we conclude?
What does this all mean to you, the career college advertiser? Very little. The CW will remain focused on our primary demographic of 18- to 34-year-old viewers, as will MyNetwork TV. Rates seem to have remained consistent. However, demand on these stations for air time continues to increase moving toward the shift. The advertisers that may experience the hardest hit are those who did not have the foresight to place annual advertising agreements with the local affiliates. However, this is not so much a shift brought on by the introduction of two new networks but a general theme our industry has been experiencing on an ever-increasing scale over the past couple of years.
In fact, the introduction of MyNetwork TV may be a positive change. Murdoch and News Corp bring a long history of producing programming that appeals to the very demographic we seek to influence, as well as being able to attract the older demographic between 35 and 49. While his initial model is hurried, it is almost certain that our boy Rupert will find a way to make MyNetwork TV a resounding success. As for The CW, the verdict is still out. Combining two failing networks into one seems on the surface to be an economic bandage rather than a long-term solution to what ails their segment of the industry, the PC. But that is another story in itself.

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