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Big Changes Set For MyNetworkTV, Home Of WWE SmackDown!

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The following is an excerpt from an article on about big changes to MyNetworkTV, the home of WWE SmackDown:

"When it launched three years ago, the network went market-by-market and inked stations to standard five-year affiliate deals, which were scheduled to run through 2011. Now, as the network adopts a new "hybrid" programming strategy, it's ripping up those agreements and asking stations to sign on for only a year starting in September.

Amid the uncertain economy--and frankly, the future of TV itself-- station executives say the proposed deals provide them with welcome flexibility. From the network's standpoint, it leaves it with room to maneuver.

MyNetworkTV has failed to develop a hit itself, so it's turning to recognized off-network programming such as "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" to lower risk and increase ratings. If it succeeds, it would be in a position to possibly renegotiate deals on more favorable terms come 2010.

The network's leverage could also improve if it brings in another high-profile beachhead to join "WWE Friday Night SmackDown," its highest-rated show. Wrestling by one measure has helped push ratings up 36% this year among 18- to-49-year-olds, although an average of 747,000 viewers in the demo still trails five cable networks.

(MyNetworkTV's deal with NBC Universal for "Criminal Intent" is also for one year; the wrestling licensing deal goes beyond the 2010-11 season.)

"We want to leave open our opportunities ... that we have from a programming acquisition standpoint," said MyNetworkTV Executive Vice President Paul Franklin. The structure of the new affiliate deals is similar to the current ones. Stations will receive seven minutes an hour of ad time to sell on four weeknights--and five on Fridays during "SmackDown." The network, however, will no longer program Saturdays, where it has offered a movie--meaning that it will be in service Monday through Friday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m."

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