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UPN promises ratings gains

Jun 11, 2001  •  Post A Comment

UPN took its up-with-UPN-and-unity act on the road last week, in a four-day, four-city blitz designed to increase affiliate solidarity coming off the network’s best-ever ratings season and going into what executives believe is the netlet’s most promising-and female-friendly-season yet.
“This is our breakout year,” said Steve Carlston, executive vice president of affiliate relations.
To make sure UPN crosses the threshold at which it has arrived-with the pickup of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Roswell” from The WB and the launch of a new “Star Trek” vehicle-UPN is urging its affiliates to promote the prime-time lineup more (at least one spot per half-hour), pre-empt less (making good any pre-emptions in prime time on Saturdays) and buy younger-skewing syndicated programming.
“This can be the best year for us” was the mantra of UPN Chief Operating Officer Adam Ware as he and Mr. Carlston fanned out for informational half-day meetings in New York with representatives of 20 Northeastern affiliates, in Atlanta with some 35 stations and in Chicago with 40 stations and winding up Friday in San Francisco with 20 to 25 stations.
With what Mr. Ware called “distinct assets” starting each night, the network is projecting “right off the bat” increases of 15 percent in the gross ratings points the stations have to sell in and around prime time next season, with some 75 percent of that on Tuesdays (“Buffy” and “Roswell”) and Wednesdays (“Star Trek: Enterprise” and “Special Unit 2”).
“As my general sales manager in Richmond said, `Bring out the whupping stick, because it’s a strong schedule,”’ said Dave Hanna, president and general manager of Lockwood Broadcast Group and president of the UPN Affiliate Association. He was particularly pleased to be armed through the end of the year with UPN’s Friday night movie titles, which will make selling the night easier.
“I think it’s a significantly improved lineup,” said Clear Channel Television President Bill Moll, an affiliate board member who said that of his group’s 19 stations, the seven UPN affiliates are “performing best against last year.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Moll conceded that he hopes UPN “can get Monday night working a little better.”
UPN is cranking up the promotional and cross-promotional machine for next season, which Mr. Ware said UPN will roll out before and after-not during-premiere week, which starts Monday, Sept. 17.
Mr. Ware said there are talks under way with some 15 potential third-party promotion partners, including teen-targeted Web site Alloy.com.
There will be extensive promo-swapping with sister Viacom networks, especially TNN, which will have reruns of three “Trek” franchises and five “Trek” movies, and MTV, whose “Hip Hopera: Carmen” UPN promoted in May.
Mr. Ware also hopes to go outside UPN’s Viacom family for cross-promotion. He’s been talking with Sci-Fi Channel and FX about promo exchanges related to “Buffy,” the 20th Century Fox Television-produced series that will begin its off-network run this fall on Fox-owned FX.
Mr. Ware is banking on TV Guide and other magazine covers for “Enterprise,” which UPN President and CEO Dean Valentine enthused will be “cool-looking” (“not that much Lycra and spandex”), younger and more accessible than its forebears.
Clear Channel’s radio and outside advertising divisions also are beneficiaries of UPN’s full-tilt promotion campaign.
“They’re a good customer,” Mr. Moll said.
In addition, UPN has hired the Endeavor Agency’s Mark and Erik Stroman (Team Stroman) as wranglers of the netlet’s ambitious multiplatform promotional push for advertiser and marketing tie-ins, which are going to be more show-driven than network-focused.