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UPN’s urban ratings dive vexes exex

Moonves wants recount on numbers

While UPN has had a solid fall overall, Viacom co-prexy Leslie Moonves said Thursday he’s puzzled by huge dropoffs in viewership for the net’s urban-targeted Monday and Tuesday laffers.

UPN’s lineup of comedies on Monday and Tuesday night, including shows like “One on One,” “Girlfriends,” “All of Us” and “Eve,” are down double digits in the Nielsen ratings, a phenomenon Moonves attributes to a possible undercounting of African-Americans.

“In all my years doing network television, I’ve never seen six shows like this come down double digits,” Moonves told an audience of journos at the winter TV Critics Assn. press tour. “We are questioning those numbers and looking if the sampling is right in those viewers.”

Moonves, who appeared onstage with UPN Entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff, was quick to note he’s not necessarily questioning Nielsen’s methodology.

“I’m not here to knock Nielsen, because clearly on certain nights they’ve been very good to us, and at CBS the numbers are phenomenal,” he said. But the numbers on Monday and Tuesday on UPN are “down double digits. That’s the only reason our 18-34s are flat. If we had duplicated what we had done a year ago, our numbers would be up significantly.”

UPN’s Monday and Tuesday night lineups have an 80% African-American viewership, and each timeslot has lost ground compared with last year. “One on One” lost 11% from last year when it was moved into a slot formerly filled by “The Parkers.” It is followed on Monday night by “Half and Half,” which lost 17% of its viewers from last year. “Eve” fell 13% from last year, while “Second Time Around” dropped 22% and “All of Us” 5%.

CBS exec VP David Poltrack said the decline in African-American viewers has also hit Eye sudser “The Young and the Restless” and ABC’s “My Wife and Kids.” He said the big question is whether the new sample is undercounting black viewers or whether past samples may have overestimated their numbers.

UPN and CBS execs are investigating the declines and have asked Nielsen to run additional analyses, which have been complicated by the rollout of local People Meters, which change the sample size and make comparisons difficult.

In other UPN news:

  • Ostroff chided NBC for ripping off the “Top Model” concept with its own “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search,” after the network complained that Fox had ripped off NBC’s own boxing reality skein last year.

“It was surprising that the network who would say about Fox that they used to be innovators and now they’re imitators (is) actually doing the same thing,” she said, adding that in a way, it might mean UPN “has arrived.”

“If people at NBC are sitting there thinking about how they can rip off UPN — that is surprising,” Ostroff quipped.

  • UPN has picked up two more editions of “America’s Next Top Model” for another year. Ostroff said Tyra Banks is developing at least one other project for UPN.

Fourth cycle of “Top Model” bows March 2, leading into the live finale of “The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott.”

  • Alyson Hannigan, who recently bowed out of ABC’s “In the Game,” will guest star on “Veronica Mars.”