Debuts at number one for its first night with new `Star Trek' show; WB up slightly in second outing
Two new networks. Two launches. Two markedly different results.
It was unavoidable that comparisons would be made between the launches of the WB Network (Jan. 11) and the United Paramount Network (Jan. 16 and 17), but UPN's numbers extended those comparisons beyond WB to include the established networks as well.
UPN debuted last Monday night with the two-hour premiere of Star Trek: Voyager. The pilot boldly took the new network where no new network (aside from the first) had gone before: to number one in its first night of programing.
In 29 metered markets,UPN averaged a 14.5 rating/20 share at 8-10 p.m., according to Nielsen overnight numbers supplied by UPN. In the overnight ratings. Fox finished second to UPN. followed by CBS, NBC and ABC. The two metered markets not reporting were Hartford, Conn., where UPN does not have an affiliate, and St. Louis. where the Fox station that carries UPN programing as a secondary affiliate does not air the programing until later in the week.
When asked about the difference in launch ratings, Jamie Kellner, head of WB, said that UPN, "did a good job, but now it's the week-to-week execution" that counts.
On average, the maiden voyage of UPN improved on its affiliates' November 1994 numbers by 150%. Because many of UPN's affiliates are secondary affiliations and do not run their schedule in pattern, national numbers for the debut will not be available until later this week. When national numbers are released, however, it is expected that UPN's numbers will drop, but by how much remains to be seen. On a local level. however, the debut proved historic.
In Sacramento on KSCH-TV. the premiere pulled in a whopping 25.0/34 for the two hours. By comparison, the station's average rating and share for February of 1994 was a 2.9/4.
In the larger markets the show was nearly as dominant. In Los Angeles. on KCOP(TV), UPN averaged a 20.7/27 and was number one in the time period for every half-hour between 8 and 10 p.m. The 20.7 rating beat any two of the Big Three networks' ratings combined. Given the name recognition of Star Trek: Voyager a solid debut was expected. UPN's second night of programing last Tuesday--a night considerably more competitive with ABC's Home Improvement and NBC's Frasier as competition at 9--saw the fledgling network descend from the stratosphere. Marker, starring Richard Grieco, pulled in a 5.7/8 at 8-9, and The Watcher at 9-10 garnered a 4.4/6, for a two-hour average of 5.1/7 in the metered markets.
The WB Network, in its second outing last Wednesday (Jan. 18), improved slightly on its debut night, averaging a 2.0/3 in Nielsen national numbers compared with a 1.9/3 for its debut. But rather than focus on the low national number, WB officials were pointing to its local performance.
On WATL-TV Atlanta (the former Fox affiliate), for example, WB averaged a 12.2/18 at 8-8:30 with The Wayans Bros., with the show finishing a strong second behind Fox's 90210 (12.4/19). Among the top three markets, WB saw its second-week numbers increase in Los Angeles and Chicago.
Regardless of the outcome of the first few weeks, if history is any determinant, the new networks will need plenty of backup series, either for launching new nights or replacing failed shows. At the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena last week, executives from both ventures outlined development plans.
WB's Kellner said the network hopes to launch its second night-- probably Thursday--in August. To that end, projects in the works include a new version of the 1960s hit 77 Sunset Strip, two Aaron Spelling shows, and a Fred Silverman show about college students who are also part-time detectives. The two Spelling shows are Club Paradise and Savannah.
On the comedy side. WB is developing a series from Danny Jacobson (Mad About You) starring Harland Williams and Peter Dobson as unlikely roommates; an animated comedy from Damon Wayans; a sitcom project from comedienne Jackie Guerra, and a sketch comedy with the working title Men Are Pigs.
In the works at UPN are a comedy project from Barry Kemp about a politically incorrect postal worker, hour shows from Aaron Spelling and Dick Wolf, and Lifeshot, an ensemble drama.
The two new services may be going head-to-head in the near future. Lucie Salhany. UPN president and chief executive officer, says she would prefer to see the network expand on successive nights for promotional purposes and for "the opportunity to counter-program" WB. She would not speculate, however, on when UPN would add a third night.
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