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Fox showed the other networks how to make a successful living by serving the young. Now the two newest additions to network TV's roster hope to repeat the trick.

As UPN and WB Network prepare for this year's prime-time network TV upfront and the subsequent 1997-'98 TV season, their emphasis is on younger demographic groups. A report from BJK&E Media Group for the fourth quarter of 1996 and the first quarter of 1997 ranks WB's viewership as having the youngest median age, at 24.8 (see chart below).

At UPN, "Moesha" is generally regarded as the network's biggest show of the past season and is positioned well to be a solid lead-in.

"I think `Moesha' is very hot. And `Social Studies' is the '90s version of `The Facts of Life,' " says Perri Stein, senior VP-network sales at UPN.

"We're not the leader. We're not the horse in this race [that can] determine the outcome," Ms. Stein concedes. But, she says, many of UPN's programs in development will surprise viewers and advertisers.

Helping the effort at WB, says Jed Petrick, head of media sales, is that "network talent is being spread very thin," with top-level writers, producers and actors coming to work on shows for WB and UPN.

"We had our first request for selling the season in February," Mr. Petrick says. "People keep asking when we're ready to sell. It shows that WB is growing and we're a great value."


In fact, WB already has broken the $100,000 per :30 barrier with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

The encouraging news for broadcast TV is that advertisers seem to like the fledgling networks and their younger viewers, so a big chunk of ad dollars shifting away from the Big 4 is likely to stay in broadcast.

"There's a lot of untapped business out there for our demos," Ms. Stein says. "We have incredible strength in 18 to 49, the largest advertising demo base out there. We also do well in 18 to 34."

Although WB, in particular, is still struggling with distribution problems, Mr. Petrick says that's a temporary situation advertisers won't have to worry about for long.

"UPN and WB have both gone the young-adult route, [ages] 12 to 24. They're a scarce commodity," says Steve Grubbs, exec VP-director of national TV buying, BBDO Worldwide, New York. "UPN did an impressive job last year. They delivered some good numbers."

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