By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
Pundits are calling “America’s Next Top Model” UPN’s signature show. The Dec. 15 finale of the third cycle of the reality series, in which Eva Pigford was crowned winner, captured its time period among adults 18 to 34 with a 3.5 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research-an elusive achievement for the 10-year-old broadcast network.
“‘Top Model’ has been incredible for UPN,” said Carolyn Finger, a VP of TVTracker.com, the company that researches and analyzes all things television. “It’s their one show that universally it can be said any network would like to have.”
It started with a concept from host and executive producer Tyra Banks along with Ken Mok, whose achievements in aspirational reality series include “Making the Band,” which ran on both ABC and MTV. Together they went to Dawn Ostroff, the network’s president of entertainment.
“She got it right away,” Mr. Mok said. “They bought it right then and there.”
“This year Cover Girl has come aboard to guarantee the winner a contract,” Mr. Mok said. “That’s not only the Holy Grail of makeup contracts, it shows the favorable reception for the show.”
Mr. Mok and Ms. Banks are currently in the midst of finding contestants for cycle four of the show, which could be on the air as early as March.
The duo nixed a network suggestion that they do a version with male models so as not to dilute the concept and because male models do not have the same cachet, Mr. Mok said.
He said he is keenly aware the series has become part of a network strategy to increase overall viewership by women 18 to 34. “I did a pilot last year with comedian Dane Cook, and it was not picked up,” he said. “I think the success of ‘Top Model’ actually scuttled that project, because we’ve been a part of bringing women to the network and the Cook show idea no longer fit with UPN.”