Sinclair inks affil deals

Net plans to launch Sept. 5

My Network TV, the Fox-led alternative to the WB-UPN replacement the CW, has quickly racked up affiliate agreements with major station group owner Sinclair.

Net plans to launch Sept. 5 with a two-hour block of original primetime fare.

A total of 17 stations covering 12% of the U.S. owned or operated by Sinclair will officially become My Network TV affils. They include stations in top 35 markets like WTTA Tampa, Fla., WCGV Milwaukee and WCWB Pittsburgh, as well as smaller outlets like WMMP Charleston, S.C. and WDKA Paducah, Ky. Other cities represented include Birmingham, Ala.; San Antonio; and Buffalo.

Deal was unveiled Thursday by Jack Abernethy, CEO of Fox TV Stations, and David Smith, prexy-CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Abernethy told Daily Variety that while each deal and each station was different, they all seemed to appreciate Fox’s “station-friendly” approach: “We understand their marketing, their sales and their audience flow needs,” he said. Also luring them in, he added, are the programming and the deal terms. (The barter split apparently consists of nine minutes per hour for the local station to sell and five kept by Fox.)

The 17 Sinclair stations join 10 Fox outlets in markets where the conglom owns two broadcast outlets, including New York, L.A. and Chicago. Nine of these Fox “duopoly” stations are losing their UPN designation in the merger between the WB and UPN; the Dallas station KDFI was an independent unaffiliated with any network.

“The advantages My Network TV provides to our stations are compelling, with both a creative programming model for our viewers and a favorable inventory split. We are especially excited about the Internet opportunities that will exist at the local level within this new paradigm,” Smith said.

My Network TV will program 12 hours of original programming from 8 to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Fox execs said last week that the service would be “station-friendly by design,” allowing significant operational flexibility and a seamless flow of original primetime programming stripped across five nights.

The new scripted primetime drama strips, which are based on Latin telenovelas, are called “Desire” and “Secrets.” Produced by Twentieth TV, the hourlong skeins will feature a 65-episode story arc aired Monday-Friday over the span of 13 weeks. Each Saturday, a recap episode highlighting the two programs’ previous week’s storylines will run.

Sinclair owns and operates 58 TV stations in 36 markets, reaching 22% of U.S. households, and is affiliated with all the major networks.

The Fox TV Stations group comprises 35 stations in 26 markets covering nearly 45% of U.S. homes.

Meanwhile, a phalanx of CW salesmen has also fanned out across the country and, in five weeks since its official debut, has unveiled a handful of affiliation deals (beyond its core constituents of CBS and Tribune stations).

The five station deals announced Wednesday by the CW bring its national clearance to 52%, including 25 of the top 30 markets.

My Network TV, which started its countrywide campaign under Twentieth TV prexy Bob Cook just a week ago, has so far notched up 36% of the country.

Both nets say further deals are pending.