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Programming moves pay off for UPN and The WB

May 27, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Although The WB and UPN operate on greatly disparate business plans, May sweeps appeared to be a further validation of the long-term programming strategies at both networks.
The end of the May sweeps last week marked a major turnaround in The WB’s fortunes. Having initially suffered a negative ratings hit with the loss this season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to UPN, The WB emerged from the May sweeps recording 5 percent growth in its core adults 18 to 34 demographic (2.1 rating/6 share) and moved up 6 percent in adults 18 to 49 (1.8/5).
The WB’s “New Tuesday” lineup of dramas “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville” gets credit for super-charging the network’s schedule.
The May 21 season finale of “Gilmore Girls” set series records in adults 18 to 34 (3.4 /11) and persons 12 to 34 (3.8/13), among others. “Gilmore Girls” emerged as the top-rated program among the six networks for the night in women 12 to 34 (5.9/18) and female teens (8.2/31).
For the 9 p.m. (ET) hour, “Smallville” gave The WB the best performances among the broadcast networks in men 12 to 34 (4.1/12) and teens (5.0/17).
Overall, the two-hour “Gilmore Girls”/ “Smallville” rotation averaged 6 million total viewers and held a 13 percent advantage over UPN’s two-hour season finale of “Buffy,” which registered 5.3 million viewers. The WB’s drama duo beat “Buffy” by a robust 130 percent margin in female teens (6.2/23 vs. 2.7/10) and by 20 percent in females 12 to 34 (4.7/13 vs. 3.9/11).
“Jamie [Kellner, chairman of Turner Broadcasting System and The WB] imposed a tough business model that forced us to make tough business decisions, but we think it really paid off for us creatively and fiscally,” said Jordan Levin, president of WB Entertainment. “Both the `Buffy’ and `Roswell’ [since canceled by UPN] decisions were forward-thinking and forced us to embrace changes, which are now beginning to pay off in big ways.”
During a sweeps conference call with reporters last week, Mr. Levin said that while he clearly favored keeping Tuesday intact for next season, he also hinted that “Smallville” could eventually be used to platform a new evening in the future.
UPN laid claim in the May sweeps to the title of fastest growing network, with increases of 13 percent in adults 18 to 34 (1.8/5), 27 percent in women 18 to 34 (1.9/5) and 13 percent in women 18 to 49 (1.8/5). It was also UPN’s best May sweeps ever as a five-night-a-week network in total viewers (4.6 million, up 7 percent).
Major catalysts to UPN’s growth continued to come from the 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday platforming of “Buffy” and “Enterprise,” respectively. In fact, in making the move to UPN, the network said “Buffy” has garnered a larger total audience (4.58 million vs. 4.43 million) and produced higher ratings among adults 18 to 49 (2.2/6 vs. 2.1/6), men 18 to 34 (2.3/7 vs. 2.1/7) and men 18 to 49 (2.0/6 vs. 1.7/5) than in its last season on The WB.
Ad buyers also seemed to like what they saw tonally of the fit of new fall 2002 dramas “Haunted” as 9 p.m. Tuesday lead-out from “Buffy” and “Twilight Zone” at 9 p.m. Wednesday following “Enterprise.”