New York-Metro, a regional entertainment channel serving the New York City area, launches its new season this week with a lineup that includes three new original shows, as well as off-network series including Welcome Back, Kotter and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.
With its new program schedule, which kicks off Monday (July 24), Metro will have six nights of original programming. The centerpiece of Metro's primetime is now its 10 p.m. time slot, where it has scheduled its new original series-3rd Date, New Joke City with Robert Klein and Club La Bomba.
At 10 p.m., Metro is slotting series that try to answer the question, "What makes New York New York?"
"The kind of shows we're putting on will play very well at 10 o'clock," said Greg Moyer, president of regional programming for Rainbow Media Holdings Inc., the Cablevision Systems Corp. unit that owns Metro. "There is a different show every night picking up on the tribal passions of New York."
To lead into those original shows, Metro has bought a second batch of off-network series that have a New York locale and flavor. In addition to Kotter and Molly Dodd, they are New York News, with Mary Tyler Moore as an editor at a fictional newspaper, and NY Daze, a former Fox comedy that stars Ally McBeal's Portia de Rossi.
Metro, which has 3.7 million subscribers, is one of three MetroChannels that Rainbow has launched in the metropolitan area, along with Metro Learning and Metro Traffic & Weather. Metro is using the sitcoms to build audience and lead viewers into the channel's original fare, including its three new series.
Other regional entertainment channels, such as MediaOne Group Inc.'s MediaOne 3 in New England, are also using off-network shows to draw in audiences.
"We need time to ramp up our original programming," Moyer said. "And I need to build a primetime audience to deliver to that slot at 10 p.m. So we're filling out and developing some audience flow using the acquired content."
In April, Metro introduced "TVNY," its block of five classic sitcoms and dramas about New York, including The Bronx Zoo and Car 54, Where Are You?. The latest acquisitions, like Kotter, will be added to that mix.
Metro's three new series encompass dating, comedy and dance. Moyer thinks they will appeal to the audience Metro is seeking: single city dwellers and those who covet that lifestyle.
In terms of the original shows, 3rd Date is airing Mondays at 10 p.m. It follows three real-life couples as they go on their third dates and then decide whether to continue their relationships or end them. The half-hour series includes post-date interviews with the couples.
Moyer described the reality show as "wonderfully voyeuristic," similar to MTV: Music Television's The Real World.
The second new original, New Joke City with Robert Klein, airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. A combination of sketch comedy and stand-up, the hour-long weekly New Joke City offers a performance by a comic, as well as a mini-documentary on that comedian.
The third new show, Club La Bomba, is an hour-long Latin dance-party show running Fridays at 10 p.m. It is hosted by model and "pin-up queen" Sofia Vergara, and each episode showcases two live performances from the show's studio near Times Square and a third from a Latin dance club.
Watching New Joke City and Club La Bomba "will become a vicarious thrill with a lot of appeal for those who still envision themselves leading the club life," Moyer said Metro's 10 p.m. slots on Tuesdays and Thursdays are filled by two returning series, New York Stories and Gameface, respectively. On Saturday at 10 p.m., Metro airs its original hour-long performance series, Rhythm & Dues.
Metro has expanded its daily interview shorts from Tad Low, creator of VH1's Pop-Up Video, to a full half-hour weekly series, Subway Q & A. It airs Monday nights right after 3rd Date.
Rainbow is mounting a big promotional effort-in the neighborhood of more than $2 million-in the third quarter to promote the new programming, according to Moyer. That tune-in campaign will include radio, television and outdoor ads.