UPN Discovers Feminine Side, Buyers Expect It To Build On Counter Strategy
The female-skewing shows are quite a change for a network that at one time wanted to be known as "blue collar TV," which still runs the latest series from the Star Trek franchise just as it has every Wednesday since UPN launched and wrestling Thursdays. But media buyers have recently been heaping praise on UPN's management for its change in attitude.
Susan Hajny, broadcast research manager at GSD&M and a former UPN employee, says the targeting of young male viewers didn't have the growth potential the network needs.
"It's very refreshing to hear someone at UPN say--you know what? Our programming strengths have been our Monday night sitcoms--shows that are trying to draw a female audience, so let's build a network based on our strengths as opposed to trying to be something that we're not," Hajny says.
Building on strength is expected to be a key message for buyers and advertisers later this morning, when UPN President Dawn Ostroff and CBS/UPN head honcho Les Moonves present the network's schedule. Moonves took responsibility for the network in addition to his duties at CBS in an effort to turn the Viacom unit's fortunes around.
Lyle Schwartz, senior vice president and director of research at Mediaedge:cia, says that UPN should continue the evolution that they've started, expanding their comedy lineup and trying to leverage their success with similar programming.
"America's Next Top Model," which was so successful earlier this year, will return this season. UPN needs something to pair with "Model," perhaps something unscripted that will fit the demo.
"You'll see UPN expand more into reality, get more involved with music," predicts Stacey Lynn Koerner of Initiative Media.
That's not to say all is well at UPN. There has been talk of dumping "Star Trek: Enterprise," which has been drawing markedly lower ratings each season. Critics point out that it's an expensive show to produce for what has become a tired franchise; the older Star Trek core viewer doesn't seem to be watching. UPN wouldn't comment on whether Star Trek was returning when asked about it last week; the show was reportedly on the bubble as late as last week. One Star Trek fan Web site, which is usually reliable, reported Tuesday that it appeared the show would fly again next season.
Will there be a place for "Enterprise" on the schedule this year? Kristi Argyilan, director of media at Hill, Holliday in Boston, says that while the audience is down it may not make sense for UPN to replace it they aren't sure the new show would do better.
"It would mean they have something they believe in more," she says. "It's a nice place holder."
A UPN spokeswoman declined comment again Wednesday morning regarding the prospects for "Enterprise."
GSD&M's Hajny says that for UPN to go to the next level, Ostroff needs to bring in more of the same programs that have worked for it recently.
"If she can bring some consistency to their lineup and make themselves as close to five nights of programming targeted to one audience, then they will make some progress," she says. "They just have not done that. They have been a network of five separate nights."
She says that three strong nights of programming would be good progress this season.
"If they can go over the hump, then they're going to have a good story," Hajny says.