The CW Network is farming out its Sunday night, ratings-challenged prime-time programming block to Media Rights Capital, an independent film, television and video studio, in a time buy deal.
Under the terms of the deal, MRC will pay CW a fee and produce original scripted programming that targets a broader audience than the bulk of the current CW audience. Dawn Ostroff, CW entertainment president, will still have final approval of the shows that get on the air.
It has not yet been determined who will sell advertising time on the shows. It is possible that the current CW sales staff headed by Bill Morninstar will handle ad duties, but it could also go to an outside rep firm.
MRC currently has TV programming projects with ABC, Fox, HBO, Lifetime and Comedy Central.
Clearly, the CW has struggled to get younger female viewers on Sunday nights, having to compete with female-skewing hit shows on ABC like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Desperate Housewives.
While the network is feeling helfty double-digit ratings declines across all nights, one Sunday’s the declines are particularly huge. Season-to-date, female 18-34 ratings on Sunday nights on the CW are down 54 percent compared to last season.
The CW recently ended its Friday night programming deal with World Wrestling Entertainment and is now going to program the night itself. Looking to put a positive spin on this latest move, one CW insider said, “We traded Sunday for Friday.”
CW sources believe programming five consecutive nights will bring more viewer continuity. “Sunday was like an island,” one CW insider said.
A CW source said while WWE ratings were solid, the network should get higher rates programming the network itself and being able to include that night in packages which it couldn’t do with the male-skewing WWE.
Ed Wilson, president of Tribune Broadcasting, The CW’s largest affiliate station group, called the MRC deal “a great move” and said he has “great confidence in the producing skills and talent at MRC.”