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Network trades soaps for martial arts, guy flicks

March 21, 2007|David Bauder | Associated Press

NEW YORK — The fledgling My Network TV couldn't get anyone interested in nightly soap operas. Now it's chasing one of the most elusive audiences in television -- young men.

The network revamped its prime-time lineup last week to add a martial arts competition and testosterone-fueled movies.

My Network TV was born on the fly after the WB and UPN networks combined to form the CW. Nine of the former UPN stations left behind were owned by News Corp.'s Fox station group -- including KCOP-TV Channel 13 in L.A. -- and the company scrambled to patch together replacement programming in time for the fall.

It tried a few English-language telenovelas, or soap operas, that ran every night. The hope was to duplicate the success of Spanish-language soaps such as "La Fea Mas Bella," which usually brings in more than 5 million viewers each weeknight on the Univision network.

But My Network TV averaged only 781,000 prime-time viewers through last week, less than a quarter of the 3.2 million people who were watching UPN last season, according to Nielsen Media Research. The schedule brought in neither fans of telenovelas nor the curious and -- worse yet -- the typical My Network TV viewer was 44 years old, compared with the CW's 33.

"It was an attempt to zig when everyone else was zagging," said Greg Meidel, who became My Network TV president in January.

It was hard to get viewers to commit to watching something almost every night, particularly when there is a strong serial drama on the larger networks most nights of the week, he said.

Fox recently bought a stake in the new International Fight League, which has teams that compete in mixed martial arts, Meidel said. Competitions will be shown Mondays and some Saturdays.

Movies will run Thursdays and Fridays. Some of the flicks lined up -- "Rocky IV," "Lethal Weapon," "Crimson Tide" -- show a commitment to attracting young men.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, My Network is airing its final two soaps, "American Heiress" and "Saints & Sinners." Each will air as a two-hour movie once a week, instead of the nightly, one-hour telenovela form.

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