'Enterprise' & 'Buffy' Signal Positive Future For UPN

By Caillan
July 11, 2002 - 9:28 AM

The acquisition of long-running Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the launch of Enterprise paid dividends for UPN last season, with improved ratings boding well for the network's future.

UPN gained 15% in total viewers in the 2001-2002 season due to the success of the popular series, according to trade paper Variety. The netlet also gained 13% in the adults 18-49 demographic and 19% in adults 18-34, beating Buffy's former home, the WB.

Next season, UPN will pay a license fee of $2.35 million for each episode of Buffy, as part of a $102 million deal that saw the series switch networks last year. Although the Joss Whedon-created series is a financial burden on the network, UPN president Leslie Moonves believed the outlay will be worth it in the long run. "UPN became much more of a major-league player because of Buffy," he said.

This view was echoed by an industry insider. "They may have lost a lot of money on a per-episode basis," the insider told Variety. "But it helped create a sense that the network was more than just wrestling on Thursday and black sitcoms on Mondays. They gained a lot of creditability."

Buffy ended the 2001-2002 season with an average of 4.31 million viewers per episode, slightly down from the 4.4 million achieved whilst on the WB. Enterprise was UPN's second-highest rated show after WWE Smackdown, scoring an average of 5.73 million viewers. Despite the strong showings from these series, their companion offerings - Special Unit 2 and the teen alien drama Roswell - were axed due to low ratings.

The network will continue to face strong competition next season from rival the WB, which last year still beat the Enterprise network on four out of five weekday nights, despite UPN's demographic gains. Even Buffy's lead-in couldn't save Roswell in the Tuesday 9:00pm timeslot, with the series being soundly defeated by the WB's Smallville.

In the 2002-2003 season the paranormal drama Haunted will fill Roswell's void, while a revived Twilight Zone is set to follow Enterprise in place of Special Unit 2 on Wednesdays.

The original Variety article can be found here.

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