UPN Is Lowest-Rated Network Again

By Christian
May 31, 2001 - 3:01 PM

After briefly beating the WB last year, the decline of shows such as Star Trek: Voyager and WWF Smackdown! caused UPN to end up as the lowest-rated network of the 2000-2001 television season. But with the acquisition of many promising television series, some industry analysts are tagging the network as the most likely to improve next year.

For the past season, the WB just edged ahead of the Voyager network, attracting an average audience of 3,752 million viewers compared to UPN's 3,743 million, according to Nielsen Media Research. This represented an 8% drop in viewership for UPN, while the WB gained 3%. In the important Adults 18-49 demographic, both networks tied with a 1.6 rating / 14 share, which represented a 14% improvement for the WB and no change for UPN. Despite this, the network is still performing remarkably better than it did prior to WWF Smackdown!, as the slight drops this year weren't enough to cancel out last year's 32% rise in viewership.

'WWF Smackdown!' - copyright UPN Smackdown, however, is definitely not as strong as it used to be a year. While still the network's top-rated show, it lost 17% of its core teen audience, according to Variety. That was partly made up for, bizarrely, by a 30% increase among viewers aged 55+, but a young audience is far preferable to advertisers. UPN's other high-profile show, Star Trek: Voyager, also showed its age, with the network being down 13% among adults aged 18-34 - the biggest decline of any night.

After acquiring well-known series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Enterprise, UPN is generally expected to rebound next year. "In an odd twist of fate," Brian Ford Sullivan at the Futon Critic wrote, "UPN seems to be the only network going into the fall season that is virtually guaranteed a gain over last season's ratings."

Especially scheduling Enterprise in the Wednesday 8:00pm was seen as a smart move by many. Away from shows such as NBC powerhouse The West Wing and the highly-anticipated CBS show The Amazing Race, Enterprise will only have to compete with shows such as Ed on NBC, news show 60 Minutes II on CBS and sitcom reruns on FOX.

With Enterprise airing an hour earlier than Voyager did, Special Unit 2 will be moved up an hour, placing it in one of the most competitive timeslots of the week. To compensate for that, it should at least benefit from being the Enterprise lead-out, and on UPN it won't need very high ratings to succeed.

'Special Unit 2' - copyright UPN Special Unit 2 debuted as Voyager's lead-in show on the 11th of April, bumping the now-cancelled Seven Days to Tuesdays. The first six episodes of the show achieved ratings that were similar to those of Seven Days, making it the only successful one-hour drama UPN developed this year. Some story information on the show was included in the recent Fall 2001 press kit, of which Jeff 'Koganuts' Koga sent in some more scans. (Click on the image for the full sheet.)

The series follows the adventures of a secret division of the Chicago police department, set up to monitor and control the paranormal species that have evolved from the missing link in the evolutionary chain between man and beast. The Unit is headed by Captain Richard Page, who refuses to play by the book to rid his city of "Links." He is joined in this task by Nick O'Malley, who shares his commanding officer's disdain for department rules, Kate Benson, who has the ability to detect these Links, and Carl, a gnome who serves as the Unit's own link with the Links.

'Iron Chef' - copyright UPN Also included in UPN's press kit was a fact sheet on thw two Iron Chef specials that UPN will be broadcasting on the Friday before Labor Day. The shows will be hosted by William Shatner (James T. Kirk), and UPN is already preparing for Iron Chef to be transformed to a regular weekly series. As taping hasn't started yet, no photos from the show yet exist, but UPN did include some new information on the show on its press sheet. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

The American version of the Japanese show that spawned over 300 episodes will be taped at MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Four master chefs, representing American, Italian, French and Asian cuisine will be invited to Shatner's so-called 'Kitchen Stadium' each week. At the start of each episode, Shatner will announce the special ingredient to be used in each chef's masterpiece, after which they will get one hour to cook.

The action is followed by three commentators, while the eventual winner will be determined by a celebrity panel in a "dramatic taste-off" at the end of each show. Iron Chef In Las Vegas, according to UPN, will combine the best elements of the WWF, Julia Child, and even 'Tomb Raider.' Whether it succeeds in that remains to be seen when the show airs three months from now.

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