The CW bails on Sunday bombs, brings back reruns

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The CW today announced that it’s dumping its flailing Sunday night lineup — outsourced this year to troubled independent studio Media Rights Capital — and will reassert network control over the night’s programming. Starting Nov. 30, the CW will give the night over to theatrical movies plus repeats of CBS’ apocalyptic drama ‘Jericho’ and the sitcom ‘The Drew Carey Show.’ In a letter to affiliates, the CW’s chief operating officer, John Maatta, stated bluntly that the MRC shows, including the sitcom ‘Surviving Suburbia’ and the drama ‘Easy Money,’ ‘are simply not working.’

‘We have made a business and programming decision to protect our network,’ Maatta wrote.

Indeed, the MRC shows often earned shares in the critical category of adults ages 18 to 49 of 1 or even zero, according to Nielsen Media Research, indicating that the audience was in some cases too tiny even to be measured.

The move ends an experiment in fixing the CW’s Sunday nights, long a trouble spot for the network. Under terms that MRC and CW officials deliberately kept vague, the studio purchased time from the network and was largely responsible for its own marketing and promotion. The MRC shows were supposed to appeal to a somewhat older and broader audience than that for the CW’s youth-oriented series, such as ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘90210.’ MRC had a reported $400 million in funding to develop and produce new content. In a statement in June, Maatta called the deal ‘a highly collaborative strategic alliance that will provide us with high-quality original programming.’ CW programming airs on stations owned by Tribune Broadcasting (Tribune Co. also publishes the Los Angeles Times), and Tribune executives were said to play a key role in the MRC deal.


But the new Sunday shows were plagued by anemic marketing efforts and soon sunk beneath the surface on what is perhaps TV’s most competitive night of the week. Meanwhile, MRC was plagued by internal problems, including the exit of the company’s TV president, Keith Samples, last month.

Maatta said the network would work with stations to promote the new schedule, which will start at 5 p.m. with repeats of ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ and ‘The Game.’ At 6 p.m., the CW will air back-to-back repeats of ‘The Drew Carey Show,’ followed at 7 p.m. by ‘Jericho’ and then the movie.

Left open, however, is whether the CW will return to original programming on Sundays at some point in the future.

UPDATE: An MRC spokeswoman says it’s not over: ‘The CW and MRC are continuing to negotiate the Sunday night deal. And all parts of the deal - programming, timing, everything.’ She also disputed a report that MRC had not made timely payments to the network. A CW spokesman declined to comment on MRC’s contention that negotiations are ongoing.

—Scott Collins

(Photo of ‘Jericho’ courtesy CBS)