Buffy To Move To UPN

By Christian
April 21, 2001 - 10:06 AM

After months of extended negotiations, UPN announced on Friday that it had sealed a deal to bring Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the network, stealing the show away from rival netlet the WB and signalling Viacom's willingness to support UPN.

Yesterday, UPN announced that it had sealed a deal worth $102 million that would see the popular Warner Bros. series switch networks. The contract with Buffy producer Twentieth Century Fox is for two years, with UPN set to pay a license fee of $2.3 million per episode for the first year, and $2.35 million the year after. This means that the series will have a secure home until the end of its seventh season.

Most interestingly, Inside.com reports that the new agreement is strike-protected. Under this deal, new Buffy episodes will be shown on UPN next season, regardless of whether the actors' and writers' strikes go ahead. This arrangement means that Fox is committed to producing forty-four episodes, and UPN to airing them. In addition, if WB cancels the Buffy spin-off series Angel, UPN will pick up the series for at least two seasons.

"We are incredibly pleased to have Buffy the Vampire Slayer on UPN," said UPN President Dean Valentine, "not just because it is one of the best shows on the air and represents a new era in UPN's life and direction, but more importantly because Joss Whedon is one of the finest writers and producers in television."

Sarah Michelle Gellar, who stars as Buffy Summers on the series, was previously reported as saying that she would stay with the series only if it remained on the WB. However, she later retracted those comments, possibly at the urging of the show's producers. There has been not yet been any comment from Gellar, who is currently shooting the film 'Scooby Doo' in Australia.

Buffy has been one of the WB's biggest hits, the third-highest rating program on the network after 7th Heaven and Charmed, averaging 4.4 million viewers per episode this season. The show has also spawned a spin-off, Angel, a successful series in its own right. Armin Shimerman (Quark) had a recurring role on the series as Principal Snyder, before being killed off in the season three finale.

This is not the only good news for UPN, however. On Thursday it was announced that the Federal Communications Commission had abolished the rule which prevented a corporation from owning both a major network and an emerging network such as UPN or the WB. This decision, which was passed in a 3-1 vote by the FCC, allows Viacom to keep both CBS and UPN.

Unsurprisingly, Viacom is delighted by the decision. "We are extremely pleased that the FCC has amended its rules regarding broadcast network ownership -- a decision that correctly reflects the truly competitive nature of the broadcast industry," said a statement released by the company. "We are encouraged by the FCC's willingness to revisit and amend its traditional positions in light of the realities of communications in the 21st century."

Previously, UPN had only been considered an outside chance to acquire the rights to Buffy (story). However, the WB released a statement that indicated it was no coincidence that the announcement came the day after the FCC relaxed the regulations. "Twentieth Television has made an inauspicious decision for the television industry by taking one of their own programs off of a non-affiliated network and placing it on a network in which they have a large vested interest, through their acquisition of Chris-Craft and public comments that Fox and UPN are discussing ways to merge," the statement said.

This news also has possible positive repercussions for Series V, set to debut this fall. Although it's not certain where the latest Trek series will end up, Rick Berman has said that it will most likely be on UPN (story). If so, UPN's future is looking brighter all the time. And certainly Trek itself wouldn't be hurt if UPN decided to air both Buffy and Enterprise on the same night.

Further details on Buffy's move to UPN can be found in this E!Online article and on the FCC ruling in this Variety report.

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