Tonight is the official launch of MyNetworkTV, otherwise known as WeLostOurNetworkTV. (OK, so maybe it's otherwise known as that only to us.)
Some of the MyNetwork stations aired previews of the upcoming lineup of daily serials, including "Desire" and "Fashion House", last night. Local MNT outlet WUAB/43 in Cleveland, according to the station's schedule, stuck with whatever UPN aired on Monday.
What should you expect when the two "prime time daily soaps" show up on "My 43"? Not much, from what we've heard.
The BEST opinions we've read place the MyNetworkTV shows in the "pretty people, guilty pleasure" category. The worst, from some who've seen some of the early episodes, involve such phrases as "sub-cable access production values" and "ham-handed poor scripts with machismo", noting that the translated Latin American scripts being used fit poorly with U.S. sensibilities.
We'll leave the reviewing of the actual shows to capable folks like R.D. Heldenfels in the Akron Beacon Journal, or the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mark Dawidziak.
But it appears from everything we heard that MyNetworkTV - no spacing, please, much like an Internet URL... say, NewsCorp sister "MySpace.com" - looks and feels like something network executives hastily pulled from the syndication market when they found out that they were losing their existing network to another.
And that's how it affects MyNetwork affiliates like WUAB, Cincinnati's WSTR/64, and lesser lights like Toledo LPTVer WNGT-LP/48, and digital TV subchannel/cable channels in Columbus (WSYX/6's DT signal), Dayton (WRGT-DT) and Youngstown (WYTV-DT's "My YTV").
(Lima will get MNT via a delayed broadcast on FOX affiliate WOHL-LP/25. OMW also sees that WYTV will air the MNT programming on the main ABC affiliated channel at noon and 4 PM weekdays, at least the next week or two until new syndicated talk programming arrives.)
Simply put, a better programming option for those losing UPN or WB may have been filling the two hour prime-time block with strong syndicated programming, or even local news. Some newly independent stations have had success stripping syndicated talk shows like "Dr. Phil" into the prime-time hours.
But...in 2006, local TV is all about the identity.
You can't call your station "Oprah 5" or "Dr. Phil 3". At times, we think both Cleveland stations have thought about it, though.
A local TV station's identity, especially for affiliates of newer networks like FOX, WB, UPN, CW and MyNetworkTV, is tied very closely to its network.
And even in large markets, ABC/CBS/NBC affiliates often use their network's branding...particularly in top markets where the network owns the station. WJW/8 here has both...typical FOX branding, and it's owned by the network.
Thus, WUAB flipped "UPN 43" to "My 43" weeks ago on the air, even though the actual programming doesn't show up until tonight. (We do note that WUAB was a latecomer to the "UPN 43" name, once calling itself "43 The Block". We repeat what we said earlier. "The Block" of what?)
Over on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, WBNX/55 has phased in its "WBNX/the CW" branding, which is nearly complete. CW premieres on Monday, September 18th, with new programming starting two days later.
By the way, for those looking for outgoing UPN mainstay "WWE Friday Night Smackdown" on WUAB, TV listings show it will air - at least this coming week - Saturday night/Sunday morning at 1 AM on Channel 43. The show moves to the CW on Friday, September 22nd in prime-time on WBNX.
Despite all this, there are some who believe that MyNetworkTV may have a better shot at ratings. After all, it wouldn't be the first time that trashy TV with no redeeming social value would attract viewers in America.
And though CW has mostly existing shows with a track record on WB or UPN, neither network has exactly rocketed out of the over-air TV basement, though executives hope a combination of the two could become a solid fifth network after "The Big Four".
It'll be fun to watch...