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Creator / UPN

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The final UPN logo, used from 2002-06.

"Welcome to the first night...of the first network...for the next century. UPN."
Tagline on the network's first broadcast note 

The United Paramount Network (1995-2006) was a network launched by boat company Chris-Craft (through subsidiary station ownership group United Television, hence the "United" in "United Paramount Network"), and Viacom (whose Paramount Pictures is part of the namesake). Viacom would buy CC's share in 2000 (the same year Viacom merged with the original CBS Corporation), and CC's UPN stations were sold to Fox the next year; they later formed part of the nucleus of MyNetworkTV. During UPN's last nine months of operation it was owned by CBS Corporation (the new name for the original incarnation of Viacom when Viacom was split into two companies at the start of 2006). In September 2006, it merged with The WB to form The CW, which is owned half by CBS and half by Time Warner through Warner Bros. Entertainment.

UPN's most popular shows were from Paramount's Cash-Cow Franchise Star Trek, in the form of Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise (in fact, Voyager was UPN's first show period). The rest of the lineup was of varying quality, but was largely made up of mostly forgettable comedies, action dramas, and various sci-fi shows that, for whatever reason or another, struggled or completely failed to catch on. Furthermore, it also didn't have the running start that The WB had in having their programming available via WGN's superstation feed nationally for four years, infamously refusing to have UPN programming carried on the WWOR cable signal and effectively killing that channel in turn; many charter UPN affiliates jumped to The WB within the first several years because of UPN's botched launch and the clearer vision of that network.

The main exceptions were Roswell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which the network (ironically, in hindsight) acquired from The WB. There were a good number of other interspersed successes, such as Veronica Mars, Moesha, The Parkers, Girlfriends (2000), and Everybody Hates Chris, the lattermost migrating over to The CW along with another hit, America's Next Top Model.

Most of UPN's comedies succeeded by targeting an audience that, for decades (with a few exceptions), had been largely ignored by the major networks - African-Americans. This led to it getting a reputation of being "the black people's channel" (complete with such backronyms as "the Urban People's Network"), frequently winning the ratings in that demographic even though, overall, it lagged far behind the "Big Four" broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox) for its entire existence. During the creation of The CW, there was a lot of concern that the merger would see the WB side "whitewash" the UPN side in order to attract the former network's more lucrative white, upper-middle class audience - fears that seemed to have been confirmed when shows like Everybody Hates Chris and The Game (2006) got canceled after just a few years of running on The CW.

The network had a children's block for its first four years called "UPN Kids", which was run by Fox Kids co-parent Saban Entertainment. While known for Marvel Comics cartoons, a cartoon based on Jumanji: The Animated Series, and cheesy teencoms like Sweet Valley High and Breaker High (teencom on a Cool Boat), it was not well-remembered or well-rated, being purposefully played down in order to not cannibalize the ratings of Viacom stablemate Nickelodeon. By 1999, with Fox Kids continuing to face rapid viewership decline, Saban bailed and UPN sold the time slots to Disney, resulting in Disney's One Too, the last gasp of The Disney Afternoon and an extension of One Saturday Morning which lasted until 2003. (This block aired without any UPN branding whatsoever.) After that, UPN gave up entirely on children's programming and gave the slots back to the affiliates. Up until the channel's closure, UPN was the only broadcast network not to offer any children's programming (though some of its stations managed to fill the void by airing 4Kids TV in markets where the Fox affiliate declined to air it, including the UPN affiliates in Chicago, Dallas, and Minneapolis).

UPN also had the broadcast rights for WWE's SmackDown! program up until the end. Despite several efforts to screw the show (including a move to the Friday Night Death Slot and bowing to pressure, as well as in turn applying pressure to the WWE itself, over the controversial Foreign Wrestling Heel Muhammad Hassan character after the London terrorist bombings in 2005), it remained one of the network's strongest-rated shows until the literal end (the network faded to black at the end of a SmackDown episode without any ceremony), and even made the transition to The CW (though it only lasted two years on the new network before moving to MyNetworkTV). UPN's final two weeks of programming weren't seen in markets where MyNetworkTV replaced UPN, as it launched nearly two weeks before The CW. (SmackDown, however, was picked up for those weeks on Tribune-owned WB stations that were transitioning to The CW.)

The end of UPN was much more of a Foregone Conclusion for that network than The WB's end, as Fox was angered by being completely left out of the CW mix and CBS deciding that their UPN and Tribune's WB stations would be the foundation of the network, with Fox stations in markets with Tribune and CBS-owned stations never considered at all. Within a few days of the merger announcement, every Fox-owned UPN station dropped all such branding and never showed a UPN promotion again during their local time. Other affiliates were disappointed by UPN deciding to air nothing but repeats and SmackDown (as professional wrestling has historically produced new television on a year-round basis) after the end of the 2005-06 season (whereas The WB at least aired some burned-off shows to keep the lights on and they still had Kids' WB! which was also brought over to The CW) and consequently left the network by Memorial Day 2006 or later. In fact, by the time of UPN's last night on the air, the network was just a two-hour nightly feed of repeats without any logos or branding.

As a side note, Paramount had made two previous attempts to create its own television network. The Paramount Television Network launched in the late 1940s, but an inability to acquire more than one owned & operated station and disputes with the DuMont Network (which it owned part of) and ABC meant it never gained traction, and Paramount allowed it to expire in the mid-1950s. In the 1970s, Paramount CEO Barry Diller proposed the Paramount Television Service to the company's board of directors; its original programming slate would have included 30 made-for-TV movies (a concept Diller had introduced to ABC back in The '60s) and, more notably, Star Trek: Phase II - a direct sequel to the original series. Ultimately, Charles Bludhorn (CEO of Gulf and Western, which owned Paramount at the time) thought it would cost too much money note , and the studio ended up canceling the network in late 1977, just months before its scheduled roll-out. However, when it became clear that big-budget sci-fi films like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind could become mega-hits, most of the Phase II sets and designs were rolled into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and many of the show's concepts (and a few scripts) appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation a decade later. Paramount would also contribute programming to the Operation Prime-Time venture in the late 70s and early 80s; for some of this programming, the intended PTVS logo was used instead of the normal Paramount TV logo; it was also reused for Paramount's fledgling home video arm as well. As for Barry Diller... well, he and his crazy "fourth network" concept ended up elsewhere, too.

Not to be confused for the Paramount Network, a rebranding of cable network Spike TV also owned by Viacom.

Series that aired on UPN:

Series that aired on UPN Kids:

Series that aired on Disney's One Too (episode premieres aired on block unless stated):


Video Example(s):


The Dawn of UPN

On January 16, 1995, Paramount launched its first channel that allowed them to produce new shows exclusively from them.

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