USA Ditches Modest Upfront Dinner for Upscale Event

The USA network is notorious for its blue-skied, upbeat
shows - Burn Notice, White Collar and Royal Pains - but some worry that this formulaic approach to its
programming could make the network seem predictable, The
Wall Street Journal reported.

USA Network launched its "Characters Welcome" slogan in
2005, which has so far proven its staying power. With the success oforiginal series Monk that ended in 2009, USA has focused on the character-driven,
hour-long comedies that have brought the network to the top of the cable
channel ranks.

"Financially, it's the most important property NBC
Universal has," says Steve Burke, NBCU CEO. Before Comcast bid to control
NBCU, Burke was Comcast's chief operating officer.

Since his transition to NBCU, Burke has approved the
largest investment in original programming for USA. The network is preparing
six new shows, adding to its existing nine. The programming that does get
through, however, must pass the "brand filter" - Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios explains that the greenlit
shows are all "aspirational, blue skies, upbeat, optimistic and

USA plans to compete with the broadcast networks by debuting
its shows in the fall, as opposed to summer. But it still relies on reruns such
as CBS' NCIS: Los Angeles and 20th
Century Fox's Modern Family, for
which it pays $2.3 million and $1.5 million, respectively, as well as daytime
fare including Walker, Texas Ranger
and Becker; Monday night wrestling
show WWE Raw, which draws 5.3 million
viewers, paves the way for new reality show WWE
Tough Enough.

The network's asset value is an estimated $13.4 billion,
nearly ten times that of NBC, according to Wunderlich Securities. But the
network's ad sales have not matched its ratings, with a 30-second ad during Burn Notice costing only $56,000. For comparison,
ABC's Rookie Blue, airing at the same
time, cost $74,000, according to media-research firm SQAD, Inc.

To bolster USA's interest in
increasing ad sales and interest in its original programming, the network's
usual low-key upfront dinner will be replaced by a 750-guest event at New York's
Lincoln Center on May 2.