A while back, in this very space, Kassia discussed the impact of the formation of the CW on her life with the rhetorical question “Does the World Really Need a Fifth Network?” Her follow-up question was what could a fifth broadcast network possibly offer that the other networks, and all of the cable outlets don’t already offer?
Well, a scant 30 (or so) days later, here comes the answers, from Rupert Murdoch, no less. The answer to her first question was “Yes, not only does the world need a fifth network, it actually still needs a sixth network. Duh!” And the answer to her second question was two-fold: “We can offer an even a worse name than ‘The CW,’ and, for original programming English language versions of telenovelas. So there.”
Wow. This is so weird on so many levels, it’s actually pretty cool. Not only does it solves the question of what in the world the Fox-owned UPN TV stations were going to program in the fall; I think that this actually has a chance of some success.
First off, if story-arc-centric shows like 24 or Lost have shown us anything is that in the age of TiVo; multiple showings of first-run episodes; next-day downloads and less licit means of acquiring content, people will sign on for shows that don’t wrap things up neatly in each episode. Secondly, by all accounts, the telenovelas — the Spanish-language nighttime soaps –are crazy popular just about everywhere they are shown, and have a pretty rich history, to boot. With the right amount of sex, violence and good writing, one of these shows could catch a buzz and take off. And if Fox uses the multiple distribution means — showings on F/X, a weeks work of downloads for $1.99 on iTunes, cellphone highlights — that take-off could get pretty serious. Finally, Fox has a history of counter-intuitive moves — a prime-time animated show; a glorified karaoke contest; a right-wing news network — that have paid off handsomely.
So my guess is that this will be pretty successful in the markets that they can get into, and the question will be whether they can make that success national.