New and improved
Here, there—and everywhere at UPN—fall premieres deliver
By Joe Schlosser -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/7/2001 8:00:00 PM
Week 2 of the 2001-02 season offered mixed results, but several veteran shows attracted record audiences, and UPN is off to a strong start.
The week featured strong debuts by a number of comedies—among them NBC's Scrubs and ABC's According to Jim, with Jim Belushi—but tepid turnouts for CBS's Wolf Lake, ABC's Bob Patterson and NBC's Emeril.
Several series opened their year with record ratings, including a special episode of The West Wing, which tackled America's new war on terrorism. More than 25 million viewers tuned in for the series' most watched and highest-rated episode ever. Law & Order, which followed, also attracted its largest audience ever (22.5 million viewers).
But the biggest story so far has to be at UPN, whose new Star Trek series Enterprise and former WB series Buffy the Vampire Slayer opened to some of the largest audiences in the net's seven-year history.
"I think it's a watershed year for UPN," says President Dean Valentine.
Buffy debuted last Tuesday with 7.7 million viewers, the second-largest audience in the show's six-year-run. Enterprise, which drew 12.5 million in its debut, followed with 9.2 million viewers and strong demographic ratings. Adding the improved ratings for its African-American-targeted comedies on Mondays and WWF Smackdown! on Thursdays, UPN suddenly has a potent lineup.
According to COO Adam Ware, the network has already started to reach out to advertisers, stressing the ratings improvement. UPN sold about 65% of its ad inventory during the upfront, so there is still a good chunk of scatter spots left to be sold. "We are going in, saying, 'Hey, we've had a great start. We know it's early, but we just wanted to let you know about it, and we'll be back next week,'" he says.
At NBC, which won the first week in both total viewers (13.5 million) and adults 18-49 (5.6 rating/15 share), network executives were hyping the strong start for Scrubs on Tuesday night. With Frasier as its lead-in, the hospital comedy attracted 15.4 million viewers and a 6.9/16 in adults 18-49.
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