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USA Hires Sorcher for New Top Post

USA Network overhauled its senior management team last week, when it also lost its top-rated show and cancelled two original series.

USA named Rob Sorcher to the newly created position of executive vice president and general manager last Wednesday.

Sorcher made a name for himself by helping to develop several original series at Cartoon Network, where he was senior vice president and general manger before leaving for Fox Family in May 1999. During his Cartoon watch, starting in 1995, the network launched several new shows, includingCow and Chicken,Powerpuff Girls,Dexter's Laboratory,Johnny BravoandEd, Edd n'Eddy.

In a statement, USA Cable president Stephen Chao cited Sorcher's "unique and on-the-ground expertise in both programming and marketing." Before he joined Cartoon in 1995, Sorcher was president of Grey Advertising's Indigo Entertainment Inc. children's-programming subsidiary.

Sorcher, who was most recently general manager of the troubled Fox Family Channel, joins USA in the midst of an upheaval.

A day earlier, the network named former journalist and political speechwriter Jim Miller its senior vice president of original programming.

Though the network called Miller's job a new position, he essentially replaces senior vice president of original series development David Eick. Last week, USA cancelled two sitcoms Eick developed,The War Next DoorandManhattan AZ, and kicked him into a development deal with its Studios USA unit.

Miller said he wasn't officially on board when the decision was made to cancel the shows, but noted that he didn't object to the move.

"It's very hard to have a great comedy, and all of a sudden, in the middle ofNash Bridges, do a great marketing campaign for it," said Miller. "I don't know if those are the same viewers."

Miller inherits three original USA series:La Femme Nikita,The HuntressandCover Me. He said he began calling friends in the industry, including a feature-film director, and asked them to write episodes for the original series.

The formerD.C.andBrimstoneexecutive producer is also charged with coming up with replacement programming for USA's valuable World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. programs, which switched to Viacom Inc.-owned The National Network and MTV: Music Television last week.

It only took one day for WWF'sRaw Is Warto become the highest-rated program ever for the 17-year-old TNN, formerly known as The Nashville Network. The program pulled a 5.5 Nielsen Media Research rating and 4.28 million households for its Sept. 25 TNN debut.

USA had pulled about a 6 rating and 4.8 million households each week this year withRaw. It drew a 1.9 rating and 1.5 million households with last week's replacement show: the two-hour, off-net reality programBreaking the Magicians Code:Magic's Secrets Revealed, which first ran on Fox.

In addition to reality series and movies, USA is considering replacing its four WWF series with miniseries and short-order series of six to eight episodes each, said Miller, who noted that some good will come from the loss of the WWF.

"I'm not sitting here sulking at the loss of wrestling. It does an amazing number.but the truth is now that it's not here, it gives us a lot of freedom to figure out ways to fill that hole, and also to say to ourselves, 'We don't have to be typecast as the wrestling network,'" Miller said.

And the loss of the top-rated WWF shows won't cost USA its crown as this year's highest-rated basic-cable network, USA Cable vice president of research Ray Giacopelli stressed.

Excluding the WWF from USA's ratings average through the end of August, its 1.9 average primetime rating would tie TBS Superstation for No. 1, Giacopelli said. But when the WWF shows are included in the average, he said, USA has the clear primetime lead, with a 2.3 rating.

Miller said viewers would start to see some of the new programs he is developing in January. He wouldn't go into the details, but said they will be unconventional.

"They all kind of have connections to each other-not that they're derivative, but we will start to take the branding of USA to another level," Miller said. "I think there are ways outside the conventional scope of the doctor-lawyer franchise show, 22-order kind of thing that programming can be about."