UPN Avoids Spending Downturn In Advertising

By Lisa
June 10, 2001 - 7:03 PM

At a time when the larger television networks are fearing a major loss of revenue from advertisers, UPN is in a prime position to defy expectations and the industry trend. The network is predicted to make $300 million from advertising during this year's upfront sales; the period during which broadcast networks try to sell as much of their available inventory before the actual television season begins.

Advertising sales in the upfront market have been slow this season, after last year's record-breaking sales figures. In 2000 networks made an estimated $8 billion from ad sales in the upfront, a rise of 15% from 1999. This year however, according to a report from Variety, spending on advertising will be 10% down from last year, at around $7 billion. But even these figures may be too optimistic.

As a result, competition amongst the networks has never been more intense. Viacom-owned CBS, UPN, MTV and Nickelodeon though, are predicted to defy the gloomy estimates and turn a profit. CBS has been boosted by the success of Survivor and CSI; while advertisers have already predicted that Enterprise and Buffy the Vampire Slayer will be hits of the season on UPN. "There's no question that Viacom has been hurt, like other companies, from the slowdown in advertising," commented Viacom chairman Summer Redstone, quoted at IMDB.com "[But] even in this environment, Viacom continues to pick up advertising market share."

UPN has an advantage with its programming because it is geared towards the profitable 18-34 demographic. Even during a economic recession, spending of this age group on entertainment products will remain at the same level, providing UPN with some insurance against a slowing economy.

Another favourable aspect of UPN's Fall line-up is the massive fan base associated with shows like Enterprise and Buffy the Vampire Slayer . Fans of new UPN show Roswell besiged network executives with 12,000 bottles of tabasco sauce in an effort to convince UPN to save the show from cancellation on the WB. "I will say it made a difference," said Dean Valentine, UPN chief executive, in the New York Times. "You really have to sit down and think about a person who gets up in the morning, who has many, many things to do, and who took part of their day to go to the grocery store and buy a bottle of hot sauce to send to some executive in L.A."

The network has also announced a new affiliation agreement with WHSL-TV in St Louis Missouri, in this Reuters report. Some Trek fans have been unable to see new Star Trek for years, due to the unavalability of a UPN affiliate in their area. This lower coverage has often been blamed as a reason for UPN's low ratings.

This new agreement will give UPN coverage in the last of the top 50 TV markets it was not already represented in. WHSL-TV is currently an affiliate of the Home Shopping Network. St Louis covers 1.1% of television households in the US, and is in the 22nd largest market. The station will be airing the entire schedule of UPN programmes by 2003.

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