United Paramount Network (UPN) was a television network that broadcast in over 200 markets in the United States and that was in production for over eleven years. UPN was originally owned by Viacom/Paramount and Chris-Craft Industries. It was later owned by CBS Corporation. Its first night of broadcasting was on January 16, 1995. UPN shut down on September 15, 2006, and merged with The WB to form The CW Television Network.
Template:MainParamount Pictures (the "P" in UPN) has played a pivotal role in the development of network television; it was a partner in the DuMont Television Network, and the Paramount Theaters chain, spun off from the corporate/studio parent, was an early, important component of the ABC television network's survival in the 1950s. The Paramount Television Network launched in 1949, but dissolved in the 1950s.
In 1993, Warner Bros. and Chris-Craft Industries went into a joint venture to distribute programming via a prime time programming block, which grew into its own network, named the Prime Time Entertainment Network (PTEN). PTEN can be seen as the ancestor of what would become the UPN and The WB, since Chris-Craft later became a partner in UPN, while Warner Bros. launched The WB, at roughly the same time (which slowly eroded PTEN into a mere programming block that was eventually cancelled in 1997). After UPN merged with The WB to form The CW in September 2006, PTEN may also be considered the distant ancestor of The CW.
Paramount had formed Paramount Stations Group when it purchased the TVX Group, which owned several independent stations in major markets. This was not unlike of the purchase of the Metromedia stations by FOX several years previously. All indicators suggested what was to come.
UPN launched January 16, 1995, as the United Paramount Network, a joint venture between Paramount and Chris-Craft Industries. The "U" in UPN came from United Television, a Chris-Craft subsidiary. Both companies owned independent stations in several large cities in the United States. Each controlled 50 percent of the network. The first telecast, the two-hour pilot of Star Trek: Voyager, was an auspiciously widely viewed start; however, Voyager would never achieve such viewership levels again, nor would any of the series debuting on UPN's second night of broadcasting survive the season. In contrast, The WB debuted one week earlier, on January 11, with four series; only one of which, Muscle, would not survive its first season.
To promote its launch of UPN, on January 16, a promo was aired on independent stations when they would become UPN affiliates. The promo featured a bride, opera singers, and a rock composer composing the drums. To promote this, they show old shows (such as Laverne & Shirley, Taxi, and Happy Days) with the lyrics: "Meet the 30 years of television right there on the screen, comedy and drama's different years". Then a man would talk about new shows on a new television network, UPN. It ends with that same man saying "What more do you need to know? Coming January 16, look for it.".
Viacom takes full control
In 2000, Paramount's parent company, Viacom, bought Chris-Craft's share stake to gain 100 percent control of the venture. Shortly afterward, Viacom dropped the "United" name for its new network, opting to change the official corporate name to the three-letter initials, "UPN." Viacom also aimed to relaunch UPN as Paramount Network, using a logo based on the famous Paramount Pictures mountain logo and the P triangle of the UPN logo (which already stood for Paramount) as the new network logo. This idea was abandoned after many affiliates protested, citing that the new branding might cause confusion and erode viewership. A few months before, Viacom bought CBS, thus creating CBS-UPN duopolies in Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. It is said that Viacom's purchase of CBS was the "death knell" for the FCC's "no duopolies at all rule". Further transactions added San Francisco (which was traded to Viacom/CBS by FOX) and Sacramento to the mix.
At the time of UPN's launch, the network's flagship station was WWOR-TV in Secaucus, New Jersey (which also served New York City and the tri-State Region), owned by Chris-Craft. Even after Chris-Craft sold its share of the network to Viacom, WWOR was still commonly regarded as the flagship station since it had long been common practice to accord this status to a network's New York station. For this reason, some cast doubt on UPN's future after FOX bought most of Chris-Craft's television holdings. Several UPN stations were part of the deal, including WWOR and West Coast flagship KCOP-TV in Los Angeles. FOX later bought the third-largest UPN affiliate, WPWR-TV in Chicago. After Chris-Craft sold its stake in UPN, the network's largest owned-and-operated station was WPSG in Philadelphia.
When Viacom split into two companies at the end of 2005, UPN became a unit of the CBS Corporation.
UPN quietly went off the air on September 15, 2006; WWE Friday Night SmackDown! was the last official program (although some affiliates aired the optional weekend encore block), ending its existence after 11 years. However, UPN affiliates owned by Fox Television Stations Group ended all ties to the network on August 31, 2006. Before that, within days of the new network's announcement, FOX-owned UPN affiliates stopped using the UPN branding and dropped all advertisement for UPN. As a result UPN did not air its last two weeks of programming in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and six other media markets in which FOX owned the UPN station, also due in part to then upstart FOX owned MyNetworkTV, which was set to debut September 5, 2006 on those stations. With the exception of WWE Friday Night SmackDown!, all programming during the final three months were reruns. Friday Night SmackDown!, however, was aired in those markets on WB stations owned by Tribune, which have since become CW stations.
After the network's official closure, UPN's website was redirected to The CW website, and later CBS's website.
Lucie Salhany was the first CEO, from the network's launch in 1995 until 1997.
Although it was considered a major network by the Nielsen Ratings, UPN was not available in all areas of the United States. In some areas, UPN programming was shown off-pattern by affiliates of other networks or by otherwise independent stations, such as in the case of KIKU-TV in Honolulu, Hawaii. Some affiliates were also known to extensively preempt network programming in order to broadcast local sporting events. These factors led to the network struggling in the ratings over the past few years, with its most recent Star Trek franchise, Star Trek: Enterprise, perhaps suffering the most and ultimately being cancelled by the network in a controversial decision in February 2005. The most consistent ratings performer for the network was WWE SmackDown!. In the 2004-2005 season, the network was getting consistently better ratings than The WB, much of this thanks to WWE.
It was estimated in 2003 that UPN was viewable by 85.98% of all households, reaching 91,689,290 houses in the United States. UPN had approximately 143 full-power owned-and-operated or primary affiliate stations in the U.S. and another 65 stations aired some UPN programming as secondary affiliates.
UPN also bought the rights to broadcast the popular television shows Clueless (formerly on ABC), The Hughleys (formerly on ABC), and Roswell (formerly on The WB). The former show is from Viacom, while the latter two are from 20th Century Fox.
In its later years, as part of the network's desire to maintain its own unique identity with its own unique shows, UPN had a policy of "not picking up other networks' scraps," which was a strong argument when fan pressure was generated in 2004 for them to pick up Angel, the spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which was dropped from The WB.
UPN aired only one regular network sports event program: the much-hyped XFL aired in 2001, as part of a package from co-creator Vince McMahon which also included what was then WWF SmackDown! UPN had planned to air a second season of the league in 2002, but it also demanded a reduction in the airtime of SmackDown! by 30 minutes. McMahon did not agree to the change and the XFL folded just after that.
In its last three seasons, UPN was one of only two of the broadcast networks (Ion Television was the other) not to air a children's programming block on weekend mornings. When UPN launched in 1995, the station aired cartoons on weekends; the lineup was known as UPN Kids. In 1998, UPN went a different way with its children's program block by airing reruns of the syndicated Sweet Valley High and a new series, Breaker High on weekdays and weekends aiming the programs at teenagers. As opposed to ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox stations, some UPN affiliates aired the weekend children's program block on Sunday mornings instead of Saturdays.
In 1999, UPN made a deal with Disney to air select programming from ABC's One Saturday Morning block (now ABC Kids) in place of the teen series. The new lineup would be called Disney's One Too. Recess and Sabrina, the Animated Series were among the programming on the original lineup. Many UPN affiliates were already airing the syndicated Disney Afternoon block anyway. The Disney cartoons therefore were no longer syndicated but now aired on UPN stations. The block was reinstated to two hours. In some markets it ran weekday mornings, while in other markets it aired weekday afternoons. In 2002, Digimon: Digital Monsters moved to the lineup from Fox Kids. This was due to Disney's acquisition of FOX's children's programming department (then known as Jetix until 2009. now known as Disney XD) as well as the Fox Family Channel, now renamed ABC Family.
After eight years of airing children's programming, UPN dropped out of the kids program business in September 2003 when Disney's contract with UPN came to an end. Reasons included FCC restrictions on quantity of advertising on children's programs, the content of such advertising, the fact syndicators were moving their most popular product to cable only, and the growth of cable channels directed at children (which have fewer advertising restrictions). As of January 2006, UPN had no plans of returning kids programming to the network, but it became a moot point due to its merger with The WB creating The CW. When The CW launched, they carried over the Kids' WB (now The CW4Kids) Saturday morning lineup from The WB.
Some FOX stations decided to carry over Fox's 4kids.tv block to a UPN, WB, or independent station, so the FOX affiliate could air general entertainment or local news programming on Saturday mornings. WFLD 32 in Chicago, for example, moved the 4Kids TV schedule to co-owned UPN (now MyNetworkTV) affiliate WPWR-TV Channel 50, while Channel 32 airs news and different children's programming in place of the shows. Also, some UPN stations aired a block of cartoon programming from DIC Entertainment (such as Trollz and Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century) which was designed to meet the minimal three hours of E/I programming required by the FCC, and usually airs either six days a week for a half-hour each day, or in three hour-long blocks throughout the week.
Although they ran them very rarely at its closure, UPN produced a number of television movies under the branding "Blockbuster Shockwave Cinema", in conjunction with promotions for Blockbuster Video during the airings. Almost all of the films were science fiction, and mostly ran during the late 1990s.
The network also offered a weekend afternoon movie series called the UPN Movie Trailer to their stations from the network's inception up until 2000, which featured mostly older Hollywood action and comedy films which had their rights acquired by UPN or were Paramount Pictures releases. UPN Movie Trailer was discontinued after 2000 to add an optional second weekend run of Star Trek: Enterprise, America's Next Top Model, and later Veronica Mars, for stations that wanted to take it. In the fall of 2001 UPN partnered with MGM to create a new weekend movie block entitled UPN Hot Weekend Movie.
As part of the contract for picking up Buffy the Vampire Slayer, UPN was obligated to pick up Angel if it were cancelled by The WB while UPN was still airing Buffy. However, Angel was axed by The WB the year after Buffy went off UPN. Despite a large fan campaign, UPN declined to pick up the show.
Firefly was offered to UPN after being cancelled, but was declined.
During the mid-1990s when it was launched, UPN began having most of its stations branded as "UPN" or "Paramount", then the channel number, with the call signs nearby. By the late 1990s, the call signs were minimized to be just barely readable to meet FCC requirements, and the stations were simply known as "UPN", then channel number or city. (e.g. WPWR-TV in Chicago had been referred to as "UPN Chicago" and WWOR-TV in New York was referred to as "UPN 9" until the CW merger was announced in late January 2006). But most UPN owned-and-operated stations under the CBS Corporation branded it by network and city according to the CBS Mandate. For example, KBCW in San Francisco was branded "UPN Bay Area," WKBD in Detroit was branded "UPN Detroit" and WUPL in New Orleans was branded "UPN New Orleans." However, that didn't always apply, as WSBK-TV in Boston was branded "UPN 38" and KMAX-TV in Sacramento was branded "UPN 31," for example. WPCW Channel 19 in Pittsburgh (formerly WNPA) originally branded itself as "UPN 19", but changed over to "UPN Pittsburgh" soon after the UPN logo change, making it one of the few that had carried both standardization styles. Many non-O&O UPN affiliates followed the same branding scheme; for example KFVE in Honolulu, during its UPN affiliation, used the brand "UPN Hawaii".
This would be a continuation of the trend for networks to do such naming schemes, originated at FOX (and even earlier at CBC in Canada), especially at CBS, who uses the CBS Mandate on almost all of their O&O stations. The WB, NBC and ABC also do similar naming schemes, but not to that extreme.
However, while the traditional "Big Three" don't require their affiliates to have such naming schemes (though some affiliates choose to adopt it anyway) and only on their O&O's is the style required, UPN mandated it on all stations (as FOX currently does), though The WB did not. In one case however, WCGV in Milwaukee branded as Channel 24 from 1998-2001 with no UPN imagery. The station had disaffiliated from the network in 1998 for eight months (previously it was "UPN 24") in a compensation dispute.