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LOWDOWN ON THE UPFRONT: ION Acquires ‘Dead Zone,’ Rebrands as ‘Positively Entertaining’

Adding to a series of recent acquisitions, ION Television Thursday said that off-network episodes of ABC’s Boston Legal and USA Network’s Dead Zone will join its lineup later this year.

At its upfront presentation, ION was slated to unveil its new “positively entertaining” network branding; to showcase its new primetime lineup; and to tout the expansion of the network’s programming block to 4 p.m.

ION’s upfront gala was set to be held Thursday night at the New York Public Library in Manhattan.

Detailing its programming plans, ION said that its weeknight schedule next month will feature the most Emmy-nominated program in history, ER. In addition, Boston Legal will join ION’s primetime schedule in September. That hit show stars Emmy winner William Shatner, who was slated to make an appearance at ION’s upfront event. Shatner plays the nutty Denny Crane in Boston Legal.

USA’s original series The Dead Zone, a science fiction/suspense series from Debmar-Mercury, will appear on ION’s fall primetime schedule. Based on characters from the best-selling Stephen King novel and movie of the same title, the drama stars Anthony Michael Hall as Johnny Smith, a man who awakens from a six-year coma to discover that he has psychic abilities.

Through a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, the sitcom Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper will be on ION’s fall lineup. Its cast includes Mark Curry, Raven-Symoné, Holly Robinson Peete, Nell Carter and Omar Gooding.

RHI Entertainment, ION Television’s exclusive partner in weekend primetime programming, will deliver 12 original movies, including three Westerns, during the 2008-2009 season. The award-winning producer and distributor of miniseries and made-for-TV movies will continue to provide original programming, as well as quality library titles.

As previously announced, the comedic drama M*A*S*H, will be on ION’s fall lineup, along with three series that have recently begun their run on the network, The Steve HarveyShow, Family Feud and Quantum Leap.In its effort to present entertaining programming aimed at the 25-to-54 demographic, ION will add Criminal Minds and Ghost Whisperer to its programming block in 2009. Both series are showing ratings strength going into their fourth original seasons on CBS.

ION Media Networks chairman and CEO Brandon Burgess and president of sales and marketing Stephen Appel were slated to lead ION’s upfront presentation.

“ION Television’s expanded content and positioning can be summarized in two words: ‘Positively Entertaining!’” Burgess said in a prepared statement. “The shows we have lined up to deliver on that promise – Boston Legal, ER, Dead Zone, Ghost Whisperer and Criminal Minds – will positively do just that, bringing large and loyal audiences to ION Television in 2008 and 2009.”

At ION’s upfront, Australian singer Delta Goodrem was scheduled to introduce the network’s new branding by performing her singles In This Life and Believe Again. Goodrem’s music will be featured in the launch of the network’s fall season.