Click here for complete coverage of the 2011 Upfronts
USA Network unveiled a development slate that adds unscripted
programming and a talk show to the original dramas and acquisitions that have
made it the top rated network in cable.
USA's upfront on
Monday night was also a coming out party for Chris McCumber and Jeff Wachtel,
who were named co-presidents in March by Bonnie Hammer, now chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable
installed USA's "Characters Welcome"
branding and blue sky approach to programming six years ago.
Wachtel, who had been in charge of original programming, said in an
interview he expected little change under the new leadership team. "Chris and I
have been partners for 10 years. Because of the DNA that Bonnie did
create here, you don't know where the programming ends and the branding begins.
While to some it might appear that after taking over a No. 1 network
there's no way to go but down, McCumber, who had been the network's marketing
chief, said a ton of upside still remains. "We've now built this base of an
audience who knows USA as a brand. When
we go out and talk to the audience about new shows, they say they want to watch
it because USA has done well in
the past," McCumber said. "Now that you have that passionate audience there,
it's a time for us to broaden out into other arenas. We have the license from
our audience to start expanding what we do."
On its new slate are 13 scripted shows, five of which are comedies. While
no titles or concepts were released, USA is also
developing unscripted shows. "We haven't announced any reality how because
people tend to steal those ideas," Wachtel said, adding that announcements
could come in a couple of weeks.
The network is also tip-toeing into the talk-show world. Krista Smith,
west coast editor of Vanity Fair and a host of ABC's Oscar pre-show this year,
will host a one hour special in which she talks with members of the Hollywood elite about
details of their work and private lives. USA is taping an
airable pilot and is thinking about whether a talk show would run annually,
quarterly or more frequently. It has not decided whether to air the show in
prime, late night or some other day part.
USA also formally
announced that it renewed Fairly Legal,
staring Sarah Shahi, for a second season.
Compared to other networks that renew shows after an episode or two airs,
USA waited until
weeks after the season on finale aired. "We never before launched a show into
the headwinds that we did with Fairly Legal," Wachtel said, noting that it
aired on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. ET opposite
original broadcast network programming plus Jersey Shore.
McCumber said it wasn't clear how many original shows USA would have on
the air next season. The network now has 10 original series on its schedule.
But he added "being able to diversify into these other formats allows us to
grow the hours."
McCumber also said that USA will continue to create digital extensions of its
"The digital extensions do a
nice job of building the passion. It's almost like seeding the buzz in the
beginning by giving the audience a game or giving them some sort of experience
either online or on the app side," he said. "That builds anticipation for the
show, and once the show on the air, you grow that core audience because the
evangelists for the show."
On top of that, "advertisers
love that stuff. In the auto market we had a lot of strength, through White Collar and Burn Notice, and now some advertisers are buying into our new
USA's development slate includes:
a one-hour drama from Universal Cable Productions about an ambulance-chasing
attorney and his idealistic young paralegal. The twist: He's in Florida and she's in India. Writer/Producer
is Chris Downey (creator of Leverage). Executive Producers are Doug Liman & Dave
Bartis and producer Gene Klein (Covert
Affairs, Suits, The Bourne Trilogy) of Hypnotic.
On We Go, a half-hour single-camera comedy from Universal
Cable Productions starring Nathan Lane as an unlucky
actor whose career has been perpetually cursed by the fact that he resembles,
but is in fact not, Nathan Lane. Writer/Executive Producer is Douglas McGrath (Emma, Infamous). Executive Producer is Nathan Lane.
M. Deity, a one-hour drama from
Universal Cable Productions about a doctor fighting post-Hurricane Katrina
hospital bureaucracy. Writer/Executive
Producer is Billy Finnegan. Executive
producers are Ann Blanchard, Sam Hansen and
Jimmy Miller of Mosaic Media.
a one-hour drama from ABC Studios about an energetic, optimistic homicide
detective who suffers from hypomania. Writer/Producer is Bill Wheeler (Empire, The Cape). Executive Produced
by Mark Gordon (Saving Private Ryan, Grey's Anatomy, Criminal Minds) along with
the Mark Gordon Company.
Big in Japan,
a half-hour comedy from Universal Cable Productions, about a popular boy band
that reunites after 20 years. Writer/Executive Producer is Howard Morris (The Starter Wife). Project is from Prospect Park. Executive
Producers are Jeff Kwatinetz, Rich Frank, Paul Frank (Royal Pains) plus Grammy Award-winning singer Kara DioGuardi (American Idol) as consulting producer
with Steven Finfer.
We The Jury, a half-hour comedy from Fox 21
that chronicles the lives of a group of
jurors sequestered during a high profile celebrity murder trial. Written by Bryan Behair and Steve Baldikoski
(The New Adventures of Old Christine,
8 Simple Rules). Executive Produced by Marty Adelstein.
TGIM, a half-hour comedy from
Universal Cable Productions that looks at a suburban cul-de-sac over a weekend, where parents' lives are ruled
by their children's schedules and the idea of going back to work on Monday sounds
better each passing minute.
Writer/Executive Producer is Brent Forrester (The Office, King of the Hill). Executive Producers are Walter Parkes, Laurie
Macdonald and Ted Gold. Produced by Parkes/Macdonald Productions (A Beautiful Mind, American Beauty and Saving
The Enclave, a limited series from Fox Television
Studios, in which a job opportunity forces a family to move far from their
hometown to an unusual new community. Writers
are Andrea and Maria Jacquemetton (Mad Men). Negotiations are ongoing to attach Kimberly
Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) to
direct. Executive Producer is Dan
The Exceptions, a one-hour drama from
Universal Cable Productions in which the debutant daughter of the Mayor of New York-who served time in jail
on trumped-up chargers, uses her resources to solve cases that have slipped
through the cracks. Writer/Executive
Producer is Megan Martin. Produced by
Reveille. Project is from Carolyn
Bernstein and Todd Cohen (Kath & Kim)
of Reveille. From
a one-hour drama from Universal Cable Productions, in which a middle-aged mom
is assigned to work with a rogue FBI agent. Writer/Executive Producers are Peter
Paige and Brad Bredeweg. Executive
Producer is Laurie Zaks (Castle).
Winslow, a one-hour drama from Universal Cable Productions
about a private detective who's a recovering alcoholic with a load of
debts, a father in prison, and an ex-girlfriend he's trying to win back, but
who has a perfect record in solving cases. Writer/Executive Producer is Zak
Schwartz (Entourage). Executive producers are Doug Liman & Dave
Bartis and producer Gene Klein (Covert
Affairs, Suits, The Bourne Trilogy).
House of Cards, a half-hour comedy from
Universal Cable Productions about a recent
college graduate looking for love and a
successful writing career at a greeting card company. Writer/Producer is Julien Nitzberg. Executive Producers are Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun along with Gene Stein and Andy
Weil of BermanBraun.
Regular Einstein, a one-hour drama from Fox
Television Studio about a family of
geniuses in which the youngest sibling named Einstein isn't genius but is a
good cop and might become a great detective. Writer/executive producer is Nick
Thiel (Burn Notice, Army Wives).
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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