Cable Turns Up the Heat

While the broadcast networks are limping into the summer after a terrible 2007-08 season, the cable networks are ready for their traditional summer sprint.

Even as the big five broadcast networks saw double-digit declines in the recent May sweep period, ad-supported cable viewership was up this past season. With that momentum in place, many industry insiders are expecting an even bigger summer than usual for cable.

“Cable will probably have its best summer ever,” says Brad Adgate, Research Director of Horizon Media. “They're continuing to be aggressive in the summer with counter-programming what the broadcast networks have, which is reality. And I don't know that viewers are going to want to see a whole lot more reality on broadcast.”

Networks such as TNT and USA, with several seasons of popular scripted hits under their belts, are now able to premiere even more shows, and new players, like Discovery's Planet Green, are entering the fray.

It will likely help even more that many cable networks run their series straight through. Lifetime will air 13 straight weeks of new episodes for the second season of last year's smash Army Wives, which will then lead in to six more in the fall after a brief hiatus. The network will also expand its How to Look Good Naked reality show to a full hour when it returns July 22.

“We're not daunted over competition because with viewership as low as it was on the broadcast networks during the season, audiences are waiting for something to come on that's new and exciting,” says Lifetime's Maria Grasso, senior VP of series development.

A cable summer sampler:

June: USA's new drama In Plain Sight, which stars Mary McCormack as a U.S. Marshal, premieres on the first of the month. Also due that day is the new season premiere Bridezillas on WE. June 4 brings the rebrand of Discovery's Home channel as the eco-themed network, Planet Green; that day, the network premieres eco-home makeover show Wa$ted and follows it with others like Greensburg, a show about rebuilding that hurricane-ravaged town in Kansas.

June 6 brings a new season of Animal Planet's Meerkat Manor. Lifetime's Army Wives premieres June 8, along with a new season of Ice Road Truckers on History, a new TLC game show, the Cameron Mathieson-hosted Your Place or Mine, and Discovery Channel's When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions special. On June 12, TBS brings back new seasons of The Bill Engvall Show and My Boys and Bravo debuts its A-List Awards special. June 16 brings ABC Family's dramas Greek and TheMiddleman and June 18, truTV debuts the new reality show Black Gold. On June 19, SoapNet premieres its scripted hockey show MVP.

July: Summer's middle month brings new seasons of AMC's Mad Men (July 27), TNT's The Closer and Saving Grace (July 14), Sci Fi's Ghost Hunters International and Scare Tactics (July 9), Stargate Atlantis (July 11) and Eureka (July 29), USA's Burn Notice (July 10) and Monk and Psych (July 18), and SoapNet's General Hospital: Night Shift (July 22).

The month also features new shows including A&E's Benjamin Bratt drama, The Cleaner (July 15). Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week begins July 27 and Space Week programming airs on the Science Channel from July 6-11. There's also I Love Money, a new dating competition show on VH1 (July 13), Hurl!, a new eating competition on G4 (July 15) and VH1's Rock Honors show (July 17).

August: Summer wraps with new reality shows on VH1: I Want to Work for Diddy, in which the hip-hop mogul searches for an assistant, New York Goes to Hollywood and Luke's Parental Advisory (all premiering Aug. 4), and Glam God with Vivica A. Fox and The Cho Sho (Aug. 21). August also brings E!'s Pamela Anderson series Pam: Girl on the Loose (Aug. 3) and Z Rock, a new semi-scripted comedy from IFC (Aug. 24), as well as the US Open on USA (Aug. 25-Sept. 7).

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