UPN seeks impact

With WWF help, network wants to own male demo
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What's new

Four new series-two comedies and two dramas-and professional football

Comedies: The Hughleys. UPN picked up the former TGIF comedy from ABC when that network changed its Friday focus and is making it the linchpin of its urban-leaning Monday night.

Girlfriends. Four good friends go through romances, careers and life together in the series from Frasier star Kelsey Grammer's studio. The series was created by Mara Brock Akil (Moesha) and stars Tracee Ellis Ross, Leslie Silva, Golden Brooks and Christina Cox.

Dramas: Freedom. Director Joel Silver's (The Matrix) latest action series is set in near-future America, as rebels try to wrest the nation from totalitarian rulers, and return it to democracy.

Level 9. Top-secret government agency tracks Internet terrorists. Series is from John Sacret Young (China Beach) and is produced by co-owned Paramount Network Television.

Sports: The XFL. The new aggressive football league from the makers of WWF Smackdown! is set for its midseason schedule. UPN will start a new night of programming, Sundays, and carry 10 regular-season games starting in February.

The strategy

With top CBS and Viacom execs sitting in the audience, UPN President and CEO Dean Valentine vowed to make the network that is in FCC limbo more impactful.

"Last year, I stood before you and promised focus. I told you that young guys are not being programmed to and that, if we did our job right, they would start watching UPN. We proved that point during the season. This year, what I promise you is impact."

With the help of WWF Smackdown!, UPN put up good Nielsen numbers. News, sports and other forms of programming may be coming from CBS, MTV and other Viacom-owned outlets-but not yet. The network did step up last week to grab the second half of The XFL football league package.

Friday nights will take on a new look with a pair of action series that UPN hopes will build on the momentum from its big WWF Thursday nights. Joel Silver's newest action series, Freedom kicks off the night and John Sacret Young's Level 9 comes in at 9:00. The network's movie franchise has moved out of Friday to Tuesdays, and Valentine says UPN will feature more acquistions and fewer originals

What they're saying

Adding The Hughleys on Monday night is seen as a smart move that will strengthen a night already doing well with Moesha and The Parkers. Girlfriends is also getting fairly good reviews. Tuesday can't do any worse than this season. Wednesday is stable with Star Trek and 7 Days. Smackdown! will continue the network's biggest draw. Friday is a question mark that will be answered by the performance of new shows.

R.I.P.

Malcolm and Eddie, The Grown Ups, Shasta, The Beat, Secret Agent Man

Season to date

Total households: 2.7 rating/4 share (+35% from last year).

Adults 18-49: 1.6/4 (+45%).

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