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MyNetworkTV Shifts From Network To ‘Programming Service'

MyNetworkTV (MNT) is moving to what it's calling a "programming service model" for fall 2009, featuring a two-hour block of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and a movie night. The new model decreases MNT’s programming from 12 hours a week to 10; affiliates will be responsible for programming Saturday nights.

The entire fall schedule will be announced shortly, said MyNetworkTV; it will still include the network's popular WWE Friday Night SmackDown for the 180 MNT affiliates. MNT’s current programming strategy will remain in place until the changes come next fall.

MNT President Greg Meidel described the shift as a "move away from a strict network model to a hybrid" for MNT, as it airs a mix of first run shows, films and what he calls “big franchise, big branded shows." “We provide the distribution system to get it out there,” he said in an interview, with the supplier and the network splitting commercial time. He says stations will benefit from higher ratings stemming from higher-wattage programming.

MNT was hatched by News Corp. in the fall of 2006, airing on a batch of former UPN and WB stations. Its initial telenovela lineup flopped. While ratings remain small, MNT station managers have been generally pleased to see modest growth at the network, thanks in large part to wrestling, which MNT debuted this past fall after WWE's run on The CW.

Meidel said the move is the right one in today's economy, with “substantial cost savings” coming out of the revamped model. "Due to the current economic environment, we wanted a creative flexible solution that will give us a greater economic result," he said. "This innovative new model allows us to build a strong primetime block with established well-known programming while reducing our overhead costs."

He suggests other networks will consider their own version of the programming service model in the future. “We’re blowing up the network model,” he says. “We think the other networks will follow us.”