Looking back, the biggest questions are probably why it took so long for viewers to begin tuning in to watch a show starring attractive young women competing for a modeling contract -- and why they appear to largely be other women rather than the expected male audience. But, regardless of why, they increasingly are -- to the extent that the second season of UPN's America's Next Top Model reality series has begun setting record ratings for the perpetually struggling network.

After the program's January 13 second season premiere sashayed its way to UPN's second largest audience (4.9 million viewers) and best household rating (3.4/5) ever in its Tuesday time period with regular programming -- numbers that were all significantly up over the program's first season -- the program is continuing to show significant growth, so much that this week's third episode drew over 7 million viewers and won its time period in several key demographics.

The January 13 Top Model premiere, which drew a 2.8/8 in Adults 12-34, 3.9/11 in Women 12-34, and 3.1/9 in Teens, blew away its time period competition to rank first among Women 18-34 (3.9/11), Women 12-34 (3.9/11) and Female Teens (3.9/12). Additionally the premiere placed second in the 9-10 PM time period among Persons 12-34 (2.8/8) and Teens (3.1/9), and fourth among Adults 18-34 (2.6/8).

Since then, the news has only gotten better for UPN. In its second week, airing versus President Bush's State Of The Union address, the program still managed to draw 5 million viewers and a 2.1/5 in Adults 18-49. Then, this week the program exploded to draw 7.11 million viewers and a 3.4/8 Adults 18-49 score and launch into bona fide hit status.

The impressive performance for the third episode of America's Next Top Model powered the program to third place for its hour in Adults 18-49 and second in the Adults 18-34 (3.9/11) demographic -- but more impressively managed to place the show first in the Adults 18-34 demographic for its 9:30-10:00 PM second half (4.3/12 vs. 24's second place 4.1/11).

The numbers were UPN's best-ever scores in the Tuesday 9 PM hour among Women 18-49 (5.1/11) and women 18-34 (6.1/15) and won the timeslot in Women 18-34, Females 12-34, Female teens and Teens overall, while the Women 18-34 rating was the third highest ever drawn by the network.

Compared to the first season's premiere on May 20, 2003, Top Model's premiere improved by +66% among total viewers (4.90mil v. 2.95mil), +30% among UPN's target demo of adults 18-34 (2.6/8 v. 2.0/5), +47% among adults 18-49 (2.2/6 v. 1.5/4), +65% among persons 12-34 (2.8/8 v. 1.7/5), +50% among women 18-34 (3.9/11 v. 2.6/7), +60% among women 18-49 (3.2/8 v. 2.0/5), +63% among females 12-34 (3.9/11 v. 2.4/7) and +144% among female teens (3.9/12 v. 1.6/6).