‘Chris’ boosts UPN upfront ad coin

Weblet expects to book $375 mil in ads for next season

NEW YORK — Hollywood studios helped UPN to a stronger upfront sales season thanks to increased demand for its Thursday night lineup, to be led by “Everybody Hates Chris.”

Weblet was close to wrapping up its upfront sales Wednesday and expects to book $375 million in ads for next season, up 7% from last year’s $350 million.

Net achieved rate increases of 4%-6%, like sibling CBS, which took $2.6 billion at the upfront. ABC quickly sold $2.1 billion ($2.7 billion including sports) due to its hot sked and surging ratings.

UPN is staging one of the bigger scheduling gambles of the coming season by moving “WWE Smackdown” to Fridays and scheduling a comedy block on supercompetitive Thursday nights, the second-most-profitable night on television after Sunday.

Thursday is an important night for the film studios, which use it to promote weekend releases.

Network execs said they were able to capture increased studio advertising because of the revamped lineup.

The night will lead off with the Chris Rock-produced “Everybody Hates Chris,” a comedy that struck a chord with Madison Avenue, leading into “Eve,” “Cuts” and “Love, Inc.”

At the weblet’s May upfront presentation to advertisers, entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff acknowledged the sked change is a gamble.

“This is a game-changing move for UPN,” she said. “We believe Chris Rock will have a huge impact on UPN (and that) the coming season will be a turning point in our competition with the WB.”

The WB sold $675 million in upfront ads. Fox took in $1.6 billion.

The only broadcast net still haggling with media buyers is NBC, which is attempting to limit the damage in the face of a steep drop-off in ratings from last year.

The Peacock led the market with $2.9 billion in sales last year, but that tally is expected to drop significantly.

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