UPN Television Network
11800 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
UPN (which originally stood for the United Paramount Network) is a television network in the United States, owned by CBS Corporation, which also owns the more widespread CBS network. Because of this dual corporate ownership, in several large American cities, the local CBS and UPN stations are operated as "duopolies."
On January 24, 2006, CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced plans to launch The CW in the Fall of 2006. This new joint venture network will replace and feature programming from both The WB and UPN. CBS chairman Les Moonves and Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Barry Meyer announced that both The WB and UPN will cease independent operations as of September 18, 2006.
Paramount Pictures (the "P" in UPN) has played a pivotal role in the development of network television; it was a partner in the DuMont Television Network, and the Paramount Theaters chain, spun off from the corporate/studio parent, was an early, important component of the ABC television network's survival in the 1950s. In the wake of the successful Universal Studios ad hoc syndicated package Operation Prime Time (which featured first a miniseries adaptation of John Jakes's novel The Bastard and went on to several more productions), Paramount had earlier contemplated its own television network with the Paramount Television Service. Set to launch in Spring 1978, its programming would have consisted of only one night a week. Thirty "Movies of the Week" would have followed Star Trek: Phase II on Saturday nights. When the decision was made to transform Phase Two into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, plans for the new Paramount network were scrapped, though Paramount would contribute some programs to Operation Prime Time, like the mini-series A Woman Called Golda, and the weekly pop music program, Solid Gold.
Paramount, and its eventual parent Viacom, didn't forget about the possibility. Independent stations, even more than network affiliates, were feeling the growing pressure of audience erosion to cable television in the 1980s and 1990s, and there were unaffiliated commercial stations in most of the major markets, at least, even after the foundation of Fox in 1986. Meanwhile, Paramount, long successful in syndication with repeats of Star Trek and I Love Lucy, found itself with several impressively popular first-run syndicated series by the turn of the 1990s, in Entertainment Tonight, The Arsenio Hall Show, Friday the 13th: The Series, War of the Worlds and, perhaps most importantly of all, the two new Star Trek franchises, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Paramount had formed Paramount Stations Group when it purchased the TVX Group, which owned several independent stations in major markets. This was not unlike of the purchase of the Metromedia stations by Fox several years previously. All indicators suggested what was to come.
UPN was launched January 16, 1995, as the United Paramount Network, a joint venture between Paramount and Chris-Craft Industries. The "U" in UPN came from United Television, a Chris-Craft subsidiary. Both companies owned independent stations in several large cities in the United States. Each controlled 50 percent of the network. The first telecast, the two-hour pilot of Star Trek: Voyager, was an auspiciously widely viewed start; however, Voyager would never achieve such viewership levels again, nor would any of the series debuting on UPN's second night of broadcasting survive the season. In contrast, The WB debuted one week earlier, on January 11, with four series; only one of which, Muscle, would not survive its first season.
Viacom takes full control
In 2000, Paramount's parent company, Viacom, bought out Chris-Craft's share to gain 100 percent control of the venture. Shortly afterward, Viacom dropped the "United" name for its new network, opting to change the official corporate name to the three-letter initials, "UPN." Viacom also aimed to relaunch UPN as Paramount Network, using a logo based off the famous Paramount Pictures mountain logo as the new network logo. This idea was abandoned after many affiliates protested, citing that the new branding might cause confusion and erode viewership. A few months before, Viacom bought CBS, thus creating CBS-UPN duopolies in Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. It is said that Viacom's purchase of CBS was the "death knell" for the FCC's "no duopolies at all rule". Further purchases added San Francisco and Sacramento to the mix.
At the time of UPN's launch, the network's flagship station was WWOR-TV in New York City (licensed to nearby Secaucus, New Jersey), owned by Chris-Craft. Even after Chris-Craft sold its share of the network to Viacom, WWOR was still commonly regarded as the flagship station since it had long been common practice to accord this status to a network's New York station. For this reason, some cast doubt on UPN's future after Fox bought most of Chris-Craft's television holdings. Several UPN stations were part of the deal, including WWOR and West Coast flagship KCOP-TV in Los Angeles. Fox later bought the third-largest UPN affiliate, WPWR-TV in Chicago (licensed to Gary, Indiana). Since Chris-Craft sold its stake in UPN, the network's largest owned and operated station has been WPSG in Philadelphia.
New shows began to breathe life into the network starting in Fall 2003 with America's Next Top Model, in Fall 2004 with Veronica Mars and Kevin Hill (starring Taye Diggs), and in Fall 2005 with Chris Rock's Everybody Hates Chris. Network executives have stated that UPN's current desired demographic is young women and African-Americans. This was seen as a contributing factor in the network's decision to drop the Star Trek franchise, and also contemplate not renewing its contract with the WWE, though SmackDown has been renewed in 2006 for another two seasons. (Although as stated below SmackDown is the most consistent ratings performer.)
When Viacom split into two companies at the end of 2005, UPN became a unit of the CBS Corporation.
Although considered a major network by the Nielsen Ratings, UPN is not available in all areas of the United States. In some areas, UPN programming is shown off-pattern by affiliates of other networks. A number of secondary UPN affiliates such as KIKU-TV of Honolulu, Hawaii also choose to broadcast programming off-pattern, instead of following UPN's master schedule. Some affiliates have also been known to extensively preempt network programming in order to broadcast local sporting events. These factors have led to the network struggling in the ratings over the past few years, with its most recent ST franchise, Star Trek: Enterprise, perhaps suffering the most and ultimately being cancelled by the network in a controversial decision in February 2005. The most consistent ratings performer for the network has been their Thursday offering from World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the WWF), WWE SmackDown! (although it now airs on Fridays). In the 2004-2005 season, the network was getting consistently better ratings than the WB, much of this thanks to the WWE. Executives at UPN also suggested those same-season Nielsen ratings may underrepresent the viewership of its core African-American audience, after noticing a 20% dip in key demographics for its African-American-oriented situation comedies early in the season.
It was estimated in 2003 that UPN is viewable by 85.98% of all households, reaching 91,689,290 houses in the United States. UPN has approximately 143 full-power owned-and-operated or primary affiliate stations in the U.S. and another 65 stations air some UPN programming as secondary affiliates. Many existing stations operate a UPN affiliate on one of their digital channels.
The first official UPN network programming was the series Star Trek: Voyager. Other early UPN programs included the action show Nowhere Man starring Bruce Greenwood, the action show Marker starring Richard Grieco, the action comedy Legend starring Richard Dean Anderson, the science-fiction themed action show, The Sentinel, and Moesha, a sitcom starring Brandy Norwood.
After Voyager's 7-season run came to an end, UPN began broadcasting the newest Star Trek spin-off, Star Trek: Enterprise. UPN also bought the rights to broadcast the popular television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Clueless, The Hughleys, and Roswell from 20th Century Fox, Viacom, ABC and The WB, respectively, after ABC and The WB cancelled those series.
The network also produced some special programs. For example, they presented the Iron Chef USA program during Christmas 2001. UPN also shows the WWE's SmackDown! show, America's Next Top Model, Girlfriends, Veronica Mars, Everybody Hates Chris, loosely based on the childhood of comedian Chris Rock, and in the Summer of 2005 UPN aired R U The Girl, in which R&B group TLC searched for a woman to join them on a new song.
UPN has a new policy of "not picking up other networks' scraps," which was a strong argument when fan pressure was generated in 2004 for them to pick up Angel, the spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which was dropped from the WB.
UPN is one of only two of the broadcast networks (i is the other) not to air a children's programming block on weekend mornings. When UPN launched in 1995, the station aired cartoons on weekends; the lineup was known as UPN Kids. In 1998, UPN went a different way with its children's program block by airing reruns of the syndicated Sweet Valley High and a new series, Breaker High on weekdays and weekends aiming the programs at teenagers. As opposed to ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox stations, some UPN affiliates aired the weekend children's program block on Sunday mornings instead of Saturdays.
In 1999, UPN made a deal with Disney to air select programming from ABC's One Saturday Morning block (now ABC Kids) in place of the teen series. The new lineup would be called Disney's One Too. Recess and Sabrina, the Animated Series were among the programming on the original lineup. Many UPN affiliates already had the Disney Afternoon block anyway. The Disney cartoons therefore were no longer syndicated but now aired on UPN stations. The block was reinstated to two hours. In some markets it ran weekday mornings while in other markets weekday afternoons. In 2001, however, Digimon: Digital Monsters moved to the lineup from Fox Kids. This was due to Disney's acquisition of Fox's Children's programming department as well as the Fox Family Channel, now renamed ABC Family.
After seven years of airing children's programming, UPN dropped out of the kids program business in October 2003 when Disney's contract with UPN came to an end. Reasons included FCC restrictions on quantity of advertising on children's programs, the content of such advertising, the fact syndicates were moving their best product to cable only, and the growth of cable channels directed at children (which have fewer advertising restrictions). As of January 2006, UPN has no current plans of returning kids programming to the network. That is now a moot point because of its merger with WB creating the CW Network. When The CW launches, they will utilize the Kids' WB lineup for children's programming.
Some Fox stations decide to carry Fox's 4Kids Entertainment block to a UPN (or WB) station in their market (or an independent station) so the Fox affiliate can air general entertainment or local news programming on Saturday mornings. WFLD 32 in Chicago, for example, has recently moved the 4KidsTV schedule to co-owned UPN affiliate WPWR-TV Channel 50, while Channel 32 airs news and children's programming in place of the shows. Also some UPN stations air a block of cartoon programming from DIC Entertainment (Trollz and Sabrina: The Animated Series) which is designed to meet minimal educational and informational programming requirements set by the FCC, and usually airs either six days a week for a half-hour each day, or in three hour-long blocks throughout the week.
Although they currently run them very rarely, UPN has produced a number of television movies. Almost all of them were science-fiction, and mostly ran during the late 1990s. For a full list, see List of television films produced for UPN.
The network also offered a weekend afternoon movie series called the UPN Movie Trailer to their stations from the network's inception up until 2002, which featured mostly older Hollywood action and comedy films which had their rights acquired by UPN or were Paramount Pictures releases. UPN Movie Trailer was discontinued after 2002 to add an optional second weekend run of Star Trek: Enterprise, America's Next Top Model and later, Veronica Mars for stations that wanted to take it.
During the mid-1990s when it was launched, UPN began having most of its stations branded as "UPN" or "Paramount", then the channel number, with the call signs nearby. By the late 1990s, the call signs were minimized to be just barely readable to meet FCC requirements, and the stations were simply known as "UPN", then channel number or city. (e.g. WPWR-TV in Chicago had been referred to as "UPN Chicago" and WWOR-TV in New York was referred to as "UPN 9" until the CW merger was announced in late January 2006.) But most UPN owned and operated stations under the CBS Corporation brand it by network and city according to the CBS Mandate. For example, KBCW in San Francisco is branded "UPN Bay Area," WKBD in Detroit is branded "UPN Detroit" and WUPL in New Orleans is branded "UPN New Orleans." However, that doesn't always apply, as WSBK-TV in Boston is branded "UPN 38" and KMAX-TV in Sacramento is branded "UPN 31," for example.
This would be a continuation of the trend for networks to do such naming schemes, originated at Fox, especially at CBS, who uses the CBS Mandate on all of their O&O stations. The WB, NBC and ABC also do similar naming schemes, but not to that extreme.
However, while the traditional "Big Three" don't require their affiliates to have such naming schemes (though some affiliates choose to adopt it anyway) and only on their O&O's is the style required, Fox and UPN mandate it on all stations, though The WB does not.
UPN will go off the air Friday, September 15th, likely with its usual airing of Friday Night SmackDown!; whether the network will air its usual (optional) repeat block that weekend is unknown. However, the Fox-owned stations' affiliation agreement with UPN is reported to end at the end of August, and, regardless, My Network TV has announced it will launch on September 5 on those and other stations. In those markets, any UPN programming aired after September 1 would likely not be available. Depending on individual stations' contracts, some WB/UPN stations in other markets (specifically those not joining The CW, and particularly those joining MNTV) may also drop programming prior to network closure.