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CW Dumps MRC Sunday Nights

EXCLUSIVE -- Looking to pump up its disappointing Sundays in an otherwise surprisingly-solid fall, effective November 30 the CW has decided to dump the entire Sunday night lineup that was farmed out to Media Rights Capital.

In its place in primetime, the network will air repeats of the cancelled CBS fan-favorite Jericho at 7 p.m., followed by a movie from a package purchased from MGM.

The network will also air Everybody Hates Chris and The Game from 5-6 p.m. and repeats of The Drew Carey Show from 6-7 p.m.

Network insiders expect this schedule to stay in place through the end of the season while the network begins to explore Sunday night alternatives.

Thus brings to an end the deal signed prior to this season that put on shows such as 4Real, In Harm’s Way, Valentine and Easy Money.  Network execs made the deal so they could focus on breathing life into other nights on the network, and still have some guaranteed revenues Sundays. But the Sunday lineup tanked so badly that one CW insider said, “Compared to this, our Sundays last season now look like Must-See TV.”

The shake-up was outlined Thursday in a letter to CW affiliates from network Chief Operating Officer John Maatta.

“As you know, to focus our efforts on the earlier part of the week, we entered into a time buy agreement with an outside supplier to program Sunday night,” he wrote. “While this move has clearly paid dividends for the overall schedule, the results on Sunday night have been below expectations.  The MRC shows are simply not working. To that end, we have made a business and programming decision to protect our network and your local interests on Sunday for the remainder of the season.” 

While many industry insiders called this season make-or-break for the network, it got off to a solid start when franchise player Gossip Girl and its rookie remake 90210 opened well early and then stabilized.

While clearly with a lot of work still to do to prove itself viable in the long run, and getting no help from an economy that looks primed to go from bad to worse, the CW has been one of the few relatively bright spots in a mostly-dour season for the broadcast networks.

It can trumpet 150% growth in its target demo of females 18-34 on Mondays and 41% on Tuesdays. Taking Fridays out of the equation (the network now runs Everybody Hates Chris, The Game and repeats of America’s Next Top Model after airing WWE wrestling last year), the net is also up 8% over last year in the adult 18-49 demo.

But now with Sunday nights back under its own umbrella, Maatta goes on to tell affiliates in the letter the network “will continue to work diligently and find success via the best means possible and move quickly to shore up troubled timeslots.  We will continue to invest in new programming that will evolve into valued primetime assets for you, our affiliates, and our parent companies, CBS and Warner Bros.”