A Mystery Explained


The unexplained mystery for Paramount Domestic Television is how low-budget weekly hour Unexplained Mysteries has become a reasonably successful syndicated show. After six weeks on the air, it's scoring upgrades and second runs.

The show, which explores such phenomena as UFOs, ghosts and the Egyptian sphinx, logged a 1.5 national household rating in the week ended Oct. 26, according to Nielsen, outpacing weekend airings of Twentieth's Angel
and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

To create the show, Paramount tapped into footage it used in Sightings. That show aired on Fox beginning in April 1992, was in the syndication market from September 1994 until September 1996, and then got a cable run, airing on Sci Fi Channel through May 1997. Paramount makes liberal use of the Sightings library, while adding new footage to each episode.

"We took what was already an existing television show and a relatively large hit and converted many of those ideas to create a new asset for the company," says John Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television.

The show is cleared in 217 markets covering 97% of the country and has prime time clearances on independent KCAL-TV Los Angeles and Viacom-owned UPN stations, such as KBHK-TV San Francisco; KTXA-TV Dallas; WUPA-TV Atlanta; KSTW-TV Seattle; WTOG-TV Tampa, Fla.; KMAX-TV Sacramento, Calif.; WNPA (TV) Pittsburgh; and WNDY (TV) Indianapolis. (Viacom also owns Paramount Domestic Television.)

Unexplained Mysteries also has prime time clearances on Sinclair UPN affiliates WJZY-TV Charlotte, N.C., and WRDC-TV Raleigh, N.C.

That it has done well is something of a surprise to Paramount, which was experimenting in the difficult weekend broadcast syndication market. "I can't tell you that Unexplained Mysteries is the priority of our division, but we're pretty proud of this little show," says Nogawski, adding that it is "absolutely profitable."

It has already earned upgrades and additional runs in some 20 markets. For example, Block Broadcasting's UPN affiliate WBQC(TV) Cincinnati has moved it to Saturday at 10 p.m. from Saturday at 1 p.m.; Nexstar's UPN affiliate WCFN-TV Champaign, Ill., moved it to 9 p.m. from 11 p.m. on Saturdays and to 5 p.m. from 2 a.m. Sundays.