2005-06 Ratings History

Written Trying to Remember UPN and WB by Bridger Cunningham (former TVRG Writer)

All good things come to an end, including launching new broadcast network platforms.  After struggling to keep up with the Nielsens for some time, UPN and WB closed their doors after 12 seasons.  The end product, a merger called "CW," a combination of Warner Brothers and CBS.  Viacom, CBS' parent company, absorbed Paramount, taking the P out of the equation.  As cruel as it seems to shutter two new platforms, they were not progressing at appropriate benchmarks.  WB hit its stride in the 4th season in 1997-98 season with Dawson's Creek, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and 7th Heaven.  All UPN could muster was two Star Trek continuations, a WWF/WWE Smackdown and America's Next Top Model.  WB lost steam after 2002 despite several fleeting hits as their late 90's finds aged. 

The networks recycled a plethora of soft shows from other networks, most of which survived up to three seasons.  The problem lie with the fact that fellow "joke" network, FOX, ignited a firestorm of publicity by its 4th season with Married... With Children and the Simpsons.  Several soft seasons followed after the buzz cooled, but FOX placed its stamp on the soap brand and X-Files in the mid-90's, assuring renewed interest when MWC faltered and Simpsons became ho-hum.  At the same benchmark in FOX's 12th season in 1997-98, it possessed three top-20 entries and 7 top-50 performers.  WB and UPN could only muster entries which reached into the 60's with the majority of their players resting in the ratings cellar.  WB and UPN's curse was timing.  Had they launched in 1987 vs. 1995, perhaps their fortunes would have mirrored FOX', who hit their stride in the 2000's in the reality TV craze. 
 WB and UPN's failures were not in vain, as CW has possessed more promise in their upcoming 12th season.  They don't house hits in the top 50, and the other four networks' declines have several CW shows outperforming.  Other networks' fortunes were about to take a turn for the worse as the streaming age birthed with Youtube launching in early 2006.  NBC initially suffered the greatest blow, followed by ABC losing its sports privileges. 

Trending Hot -- Reality TV was alive and well, aiding FOX in their push.  ABC experienced what would be their last run in 2nd place, aided by their last Superbowl.  Soapy premises on ABC's Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, as well as FOX's House, became the next guilty pleasure.  Procedural dramas allowed CBS to kill it in the ratings. 
Trending Tepid -- Despite the announced merger, UPN and WB continued to market scripted programming instead of coasting on autopilot.  The results produced the still-popular Supernatural and America's Next Top Model cracking the top-100.  Deal or No Deal kept Gameshows in the running.  NBC continued to crumble with only Medium and My Name is Earl and several gameshow/reality franchises as their bright spot. 
Trending Cold -- Sitcoms delivered unwelcome Nielsens.  Longstanding favorites Will and Grace, Malcolm in the Middle and ABC staple TGIF ended their runs, leaving the surviving sitcoms to fend off cold Nielsen winters. 

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