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USA: Expanding Beyond Drama

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USA Network  is readying its expansion outside of the drama genre, with both comedy and unscripted series on target to launch the next two fall seasons.

"In order for us to grow, we need to find new ways to bring in new viewers," network copresident Chris McCumber said last week.

For its comedy slate, the network will use repeat episodes of Modern Family beginning in fall 2013 as a lineup launch pad. After initially stating they wanted to get one of their comedy projects on the schedule before Modern Family premieres, McCumber and fellow copresident Jeff Wachtel told B&C that launching the genre with the ABC hit was "an incredible advantage" they couldn't pass up.

"[Comedy] is a new world for us," said McCumber. "We want to make sure we have the right product to put out there at the right time."

USA added four projects to the previously announced Paging Dr. Freed and Dennis Leary's Sirens. Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun's Regulars, about a group of customers and employees at a New Jersey bar, and Kelsey Grammer's The Dicicco Brothers, about an entrepreneur who tries to make it big in Silicon Valley, go along with Benched (about an attorney working in the public defender's office) and Start-Up (with two young pals trying to start their own business).

USA is also making its initial push into unscripted fare, developing series with former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner and creating an American version of BBC series The Choir. The net has added Mark Burnett's Romancing the Globe and Shed Media's Bride or Best Man (working title).

"We'd be silly not to get into reality," said Wachtel. USA hopes to differentiate its fare from the average "car-crash TV." Wachtel said the challenge will be "how do we do our version that stays within our more upbeat, aspirational brand?"

Wachtel hopes USA will debut its first unscripted series on the air by fall or winter, but added, "we [will] put stuff up when and where we're ready."

McCumber said they are still tinkering with the right balance of scripted vs. unscripted: "There's no perfect formula."

USA will experiment with airing dramas straight through as opposed to the usual split-season strategy, a tactic McCumber and Wachtel said they were considering back in January. Wachtel cautioned that the strategy won't be in place for every show, adding that USA's many series allow for such an experiment.

"We both have the luxury and the challenge of figuring out where the shows play best," said Wachtel.

To that point, Wachtel added that it's "starting to feel like Royal Pains is a pure summer-for-summer show." Fourteen of the 16 episodes of Royal Pains' fourth season will air in the summer, with the other two being used for a holiday-themed prequel movie.

The network is adding six new dramas, including projects from Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, Bryan Fuller, Pierce Brosnan and an adaptation of the T. Jefferson Parker novel Fallen. These join the already announced pilot Graceland and the miniseries Political Animals, which debuts in July.

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