The CW is subletting its Sunday nights.

Maybe this sort of thing will catch on.

The CW is, of course, struggling to find viewers. The (sort-of) merger between The WB and UPN hasn't exactly worked out the way it was planned. When those two networks went off the air in 2006, they were averaging a combined audience of about 6 million viewers.

The CW averaged about 3 million in 2006-07. Now, it's less than that. So one plus one equals less than one.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that one of The CW's owners (CBS or Time Warner) is considering pulling the plug on the network. Everyone at CBS, Time Warner and The CW disputed that report ... but things aren't looking good.

Which is a big reason that The CW has sublet Sunday night. By turning it over to another company — Media Rights Capital — the network is assured of a weekly rent check no matter how successful (or unsuccessful) MRC's shows turn out to be.

It wouldn't be a huge surprise if more-established networks follow suit. Oh, none of them will admit to even thinking about it, but you can bet it has come up in closed-door meetings.

When was the last time you watched anything on ABC, CBS or NBC on Saturday night? Even if you did, odds are high you were watching a repeat.

Right now, of course, we're in the middle of repeat season on the broadcast networks. But even during the regular season, NBC had repeats, CBS had repeats (with the exception of "48 Hours Mystery") and ABC had repeats (with the exception of college football games in the fall).

Heck, in the last weeks of the regular season it seemed like NBC was running mostly "American Gladiators," "American Gladiators" repeats and repeats of the various "Law & Orders."

Geez, if you can't do better than that, maybe you should sublet your schedule.

Of course, if ABC has room on its schedule for "According to Jim" — repeats or first-run episodes — then it isn't really trying, either.

· · · · ·

As for the shows that MRC is planning to air on Sunday nights, there's reason for optimism because there is some very good creative talent behind several of them.

But there's cause for concern because NONE of the shows produced a pilot before they were scheduled. And, while it saves money that way, you're going into production on a show that just might turn out to be a disaster. And you can't quit after just one episode.

Anyway, here are the show's MRC/The CW have announced for Sundays in the fall:

"In Harm's Way" (6:30 p.m.) is a reality show "that looks at the lives of people doing dangerous jobs." (It's produced by the same folks who bring us the similar sounding "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel..)

"Surviving Suburbia" (7:30 p.m.) is a sitcom about a family and their new, extremely odd neighbors. Kevin Abbott ("Roseanne," "Reba," "My Name Is Earl") is the executive producer.

"Valentine, Inc." (8 p.m.) is a comedy/drama about an agency that "finds lost loves, true loves and mends broken hearts." Kevin Murphy ("Desperate Housewives," "Reaper") is the executive producer.

"Easy Money" (9 p.m.) is a drama about a family that runs a high-interest loan business. Andy Schneider and Diane Frolov ("Northern Exposure," "The Sopranos") are the executive producers.

MRC and The CW will eventually announce another two or three shows that will air from 5-6:30 p.m.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com