It’s a mystery that even Adrian Monk hasn’t solved-how to give USA Network programming a distinct, branded feel. But , who moved the Sci Fi Channel from geekdom to mainstream and was rewarded with the top spot at sibling USA, is tackling it in 2005.
Ms. Hammer expects to put her mark on the job this summer by stamping a brand on the channel, until now seen as a mishmash of programming under an undistinguished, general-entertainment umbrella.
Ms. Hammer has worked at USA since 1989, long enough to see such meaningless slogans as “The Cure for the Common Show” and “The Remote Stops Here” come and go. She’s confident that this time she will do better.
“We have some very smart and thoughtful ways to approach it,” she said. “It will be a sensibility and tone that we’re right in the middle of figuring out. We’re not taking a left turn. We’re not changing the network. We’re really successful, so it’s enhancing what we have, as opposed to reinventing what we have.”
Indeed, Ms. Hammer inherited a lineup filled with strong original programming, led by “Monk” and “Dead Zone.” She ordered more episodes of last year’s hot limited series “The 4400” and turned the new “Kojak,” with Ving Rhames, from a TV movie into a series. USA also has shows that range from the “Law & Order” franchise (the network last month agreed to split a record $1.92 million per episode with NBC sibling Bravo for reruns of “Criminal Intent”) and Olympic action to “Nashville Star” and “The Westminster Dog Show.”
That programming already makes USA one of the top-rated cable networks, but Ms. Hammer is convinced it can do better. No one is betting against her.
“As a colleague she’s incredibly supportive, and a great person to bounce ideas off of,” said Michelle Ganeless, who was general manger of USA when Ms. Hammer was in charge of Sci Fi and now serves as general manager at Comedy Central. “She champions people like no other. She’s passionate and fights for everything she believes in.”