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MNT's Ratings Dilemma

MyNetworkTV (MNT) debuts Tuesday, but it will be more than a week before the TV industry knows how well the startup network is doing in the Nielsen ratings.

The network is the first to offer stripped programming on a regular basis—in this case, telenovela-inspired dramas Desire and Fashion House—and plans to sell the Monday-Friday airings as a whole rather than each night individually.

Consequently, ratings for the weekday telecasts of the MNT strips—dubbed a “limited network”—won't be available to agencies, advertisers and others until the Thursday following the conclusion of the broadcast week. Also, there will be no overnight “fast affiliate” information available.

The other broadcast networks have their primetime programming included in the live and live-plus-same-day ratings reported on the following Tuesdays, as well as in fast overnights.

MNT has bristled at being labeled a syndication service, which commands lower rates than networks, but its national ad revenue has reportedly fallen far short of its $50 million goal and is now said to hover around $20 million.

Nielsen reports strip programming, such as syndication, cable and network shows airing outside of primetime, on Thursdays.

But, Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus says MNT chose to sell the telenovelas as strips. It could have broken them out individually, the way other networks do with episodes of reality and scripted fare airing multiple times per week.

“They report it the way they want to sell it,” he says.

Once the information is released, live-only and live-plus-same-day numbers will be available. Another option will be to look at metered-market data the morning after they air, which will include demo data for the top 10 markets.

Dave Barrington, senior VP of ad sales for MNT, says, “MyNetworkTV will be posted and available to agencies and advertisers on a day, date and program basis from Nielsen's National Television Index, like every other network.”