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UPN's Loss Trimmed by Half, Exec Says

January 13, 2003|From Reuters

UPN, the broadcast network best known for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the latest "Star Trek" series and sitcoms aimed at black audiences, has cut its losses in half from last year, a top executive said Sunday.

"UPN is in better financial shape" than at any other time in its eight-year history, said Les Moonves, president of CBS, who also oversees UPN, noting that advertising revenue is up 25% in 2002 compared with 2001 even as the network tries to shore up ratings.

"Obviously, UPN lost a great deal of money last year, but losses have been cut over 50% for this year," said Moonves, speaking at the Television Critics Assn. Winter Press Tour in Los Angeles. He did not give details on the reduced loss.

Both CBS and UPN are owned by Viacom Inc., and Moonves has run the two networks since early 2002.

UPN still generates its biggest profit from professional wrestling shows, Moonves said. "Thursday night, our wrestling night, is our most profitable night," he said, even though World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. sells most of the advertising time for that programming.

Moonves said the network was recovering from a slump in ratings and also improving its financial health.

Of the seven broadcast networks, UPN has finished a consistent sixth in the ratings this season, even with high-profile shows such as the long-running "Buffy" and "Enterprise," the latest "Star Trek" series.

Like the other broadcast networks, UPN is in the midst of rolling out its midseason slate, which relies heavily on its traditional appeal to black audiences.

Among its new shows are the hip-hop drama "Platinum," starring rapper Sticky Fingaz; "Abby," starring award-winning actor Sidney Poitier's daughter Sydney; and staged-reality series "America's Next Top Model," with model Tyra Banks.

"Obviously, we are trying to make more of our casts interracial," Moonves said, "and yes, we would like to expand beyond an African American audience, and I think we've accomplished that."

Moonves said he wanted the network to be viewed as younger and hipper and to evolve into a "fuller network." To that end, he said, viewers will see little CBS programming pop up on UPN.

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