Fox Broadcasting is going to make the summer TV season a hotly contested one.
The fourth network yesterday announced that it will expand to six nights of first-run, prime-time programming July 1 with the debut of "Melrose Place," a twentysomething ensemble drama from the producers of "Beverly Hills, 90210."
"It is the kind of show viewers can't find on any other network," Fox Entertainment President Peter Chernin said yesterday. "It's a look at today's twentysomething generation . . . coming of age and on their own for the first time."
The cast will include Grant Show, Vanessa Williams and Courtney Thorne-Smith. It is a show programmed for the most desirable of all demographic groups. And the word in the TV industry is that Fox is having no trouble finding sponsors willing to pay top dollar to reach that audience during the show.
NBC recently announced that it will launch its fall season in August right after the Summer Olympics with new episodes of "Seinfeld" and "Blossom." The network said it will use the huge audience expected for the Olympics as a promotional platform for the early launches.
CBS and ABC are also expected to announce more first-run programming this summer, to prevent Fox and NBC from getting too big a jump on the new season.
Fox and NBC have been leading the move away from summer reruns in recent years. But the launch of a new night of programming is the biggest step yet in that direction.
Fox did not say what other regular series will air with "Melrose Place" on Wednesdays. Currently, Fox affiliates, like WBFF-Channel 45 in Baltimore, carry syndicated programming on Wednesdays.