Net's primetime shows head to MySpace

Fox is putting MySpace front and center in its on-demand TV plans.

Net on Tuesday launched its ad-supported streaming service for several primetime shows.

Service is similar to those already available from CBS and ABC, but unlike its competitors, Fox will not be streaming its shows on the network Web site. Instead, the only national Net platform will be at News Corp.-owned MySpace.

Fox in August launched a streaming service on nine of its owned station Web sites, and on Tuesday, it expanded that to all 24. However, only Web surfers who live in a Fox-owned station’s geographical area will be able to watch shows on its site.

Under a deal signed earlier this year, Fox will share a minority of online ad revenue with affils. Going forward, however, Fox Digital Media prexy Peter Levinsohn said the net hopes to adopt a model similar to broadcast, where local stations would get to sell some of the ad time and keep the revenue themselves.

ABC has a similar policy for shows it streams on ABC.com.

Most of Fox’s primetime shows produced by 20th Century Fox TV, including “Bones,” “Prison Break,” “Vanished,” “Standoff” and “The Loop,” are part of the program, along with latenighter “Talk Show With Spike Feresten.”

Notably missing are Fox’s animated skeins, especially “The Simpsons.”

In addition, Sony and WB have granted Fox streaming rights for “‘Til Death” and “Justice,” but only during the baseball playoffs for promotional purposes.

Fox plans to stream a broad archive of shows throughout the baseball playoffs. Net hopes the offering, which will be promoted on-air during games, will help with its traditional problem of declining viewer interest when shows are preempted for baseball.

Following the World Series, Fox is expected to mirror other nets by putting shows online the day after they air and keeping them up for about four weeks. Each hourlong skein will have a pre-roll ad and three 30-second commercial breaks.

By using MySpace to host its shows, Fox is hoping to reach a broader audience and get them more deeply engaged than it could on its own Web site. Visitors to Fox.com will find numerous links to the MySpace streams.

“MySpace has over 50 million active users and a whole set of community tools that are already available,” Levinsohn noted. “It makes a lot more sense to us to take advantage of that than to build something from scratch on our own Web site.”

Decision also may help News Corp. justify its $580 million purchase of MySpace, since ad revenue from Fox shows will be generated by the social networking site. Burger King, Lionsgate and Toyota already have agreed to sponsor Fox skeins online.

MySpace and News Corp. have enjoyed a honeymoon on Wall Street in recent months, in part because other companies have been slower to make big online moves. But the conglom is expected to be under pressure soon from investors to reflect the acquisition’s impact on the bottom line, not just in good buzz.

Streaming Fox shows seems likely to help with that goal. One analyst essentially repeated the web’s wisdom in putting the shows on the youth-networking site. “Rather than try to force it on Fox.com, it makes more sense for the company to have an even more comprehensive offering on MySpace,” he said. “They should take advantage of what they can do that other networks can’t.”

The analyst even questioned the decision to make shows available only on the Fox section of MySpace. “The real opportunity is letting users put it on their personal MySpace page,” he said.

However, the net may be wary of having its shows, and sponsors’ ads, next to some of the racy content users put on their MySpace pages.

Fox also sells downloads of many of its shows through News Corp.-owned IGN and Apple’s iTunes.

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