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MNT Ratings Picture: Unclear

MyNetworkTV's debut last week came under immediate scrutiny, but executives overseeing the new netlet believe its true fate won't be known for at least half a year.

Twentieth Television President/COO Bob Cook says a clear picture of the new telenovela-inspired soap genre's value won't emerge until at least two complete cycles of the 13-week dramas air. Then, he says, MNT, will “really have an opportunity to look and say how we are doing.”

MNT, Cook says, anticipated getting off to a slow start, since it has to attract an entirely new audience on former UPN and WB affiliates, and square off against stiff network competition. But he is hoping to see the netlet make some ratings inroads when MNT's originals compete against reruns elsewhere starting in December, and also as more affiliates move to high-def formats.

Independent researchers, who spoke to B&C on the condition of anonymity, think the answer will be known sooner.

If MNT's ratings and shares can remain stable on a daily basis in the short-term, the consensus is that there is a chance MNT can stop the bleeding and possibly even add audience. “So, realistically, from a non-competitive angle, I think you will know more after two full weeks,” says a veteran TV researcher. “If they are still [declining] then, there is big trouble in the Fox house.”

Since the initial batch of national ratings won't be available until Thursday, the industry has been relying on Nielsen overnight metered-market household ratings (with demos available only in the top 10 markets, where demo ratings have been low) to make an early determination of the netlet's viability.

Desire earned a 1.1 rating/2 share at 8 p.m. It inherited a 1.7/3 time-slot average in August (and came under the average 2.3/4 from last September with different programming). After holding at a 1.1/2 the first two days, it fell to a 1.0/2 on Thursday. One encouraging sign: Its shares remained constant in each quarter-hour.

Fashion House, which follows at 9, remained at a 1.1/2 average over the three days, after inheriting a 1.6/3 time period average last month (and 2.2/3 in September 2005). Its ratings declined each night from a 1.3/2 to a 1.1/2 and a 1.0/2 on Thursday, and, while its share remained steady the first two nights, it dipped from a 2 to 1 share midway through Thursday night's episode.

As part of its massive promotional campaign, MNT has added second runs of the soaps on Fox-owned stations and a growing list of affiliates outside of primetime for two weeks.

In the top 60 markets, MNT saw the number of affiliates carrying reruns grow each day, from roughly 10 to nearly 20 by Thursday. Several of them beat the national ratings averages locally.