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CW outsources Sunday to MRC

New lineup will target adults 18-49

It’s official: The CW is outsourcing its Sunday night lineup next season.

CW confirmed Friday that it has pacted with indie producers Media Rights Capital to program the night starting this fall. MRC is on board to produce two comedies and two dramas for the block.

Word first trickled out late Thursday of CW’s plans to turn its Sunday over to an outside entity (Daily Variety, May 9) – but initial speculation centered on a deal with advertisers. MRC emerged Friday as the actual programmers for the block.

MRC will have a stake in ad sales, although CW’s sales team will still oversee that area. Tribune Broadcasting, which owns CW’s key affils, is also partnering with MRC in handling the block.

Specific shows will be announced Tuesday at the network’s upfront presentation. But MRC and Tribune stressed that the block would target adults 18-49, rather than the CW’s younger skew.

That’s due to Tribune’s influence in the new agreement. Tribune Broadcasting prexy Ed Wilson, who joined the station group earlier this year, said he believed his stations’ 10 p.m. newscasts would be better served by a broader, slightly older audience.

“We tend to have a strong news product (on our stations), and good news product needs strong lead-ins,” he said. “We target more than 18-34. We’re looking for a broader demo.”

MRC TV topper Keith Samples said he and Wilson began mapping out a primetime block soon after Wilson took over Tribune Broadcasting.

“One of the things that came out of those conversations was the idea and possibility of us trying to go after a demo not being served by their stations’ primetime right now,” Samples said.

Wilson and Samples eventually took the idea to the CW; from there, it took some time to hammer out a pact that worked for all three parties.

“This has been an ongoing conversation for several months, and there were peaks and valleys on how serious it might or might not be,” Samples said. “Everybody had a lot of conversations over which demo should be targeted, how to go about this, way to broaden the marketplace fot he Tribune stations and CW lineup. It’s been a pretty interesting and analytical process.”

CW pointed out that the new deal would actually expand the amount of fare the netlet airs on Sunday. Night has always been a weak spot for the CW, and before that, the WB.

“As the leading independent producer of television programming, MRC will bring a slate of high-quality entertainment to our air on the most competitive night of television, while we will focus our resources and efforts on strengthening our Monday through Friday schedule,” Ostroff said.

Samples said Ostroff and her team have been regularly consulted on the Sunday night lineup.

“It’s obviously evolving, and so far very cordial,” Samples said. “We don’t do antyhign they’re not aware of. It’s been a collaborative, intellectual discussion. We’re not forcing points of view on each other, and that includes Tribune as well.”

The CW COO John Maatta noted that such programming deals are becoming increasingly common. Several networks now farm out their Saturday morning kids blocks to outside producers, and UPN launched “WWE Smackdown” as a time buy (before eventually taking over the show’s ad sales.) And even though it’s not the same style of arrangement, NBC recently contracted with BermanBraun and Thom Beers to create a block of reality fare.

“It will also allow our sales team more opportunity to capitalize on our new Friday night schedule with the departure of wrestling, as that is such a critical night for retailers and marketers with a weekend product push,” Mattaa said.

MRC said it consulted with ad behemoth WPP – which holds a stake in MRC – on the deal.

As for buzz on the rest of the CW’s fall sked, the new “Beverly Hills 90210” redux and “How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls” are both expected to score timeslots. Also, bubble entry “Reaper” is expected to get a second season, while comedies “Everybody Hates Chris” and “The Game” are expected to open up CW’s new “Smackdown”-free Friday.

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