USA Network: 25 Years: Net’s Climb Up Ladder of Television Success

Jun 27, 2005  •  Post A Comment

April 1977-Madison Square Garden and UA-Columbia Cablevision announce plans to distribute live sports and entertainment programming via satellite to cable systems.

April 9, 1980-MSG Sports Network is reorganized as USA Network, under joint ownership of Madison Square Garden Network and UA-Columbia Cablevision.

July 1981-USA opens affiliate office in Los Angeles.

October 1981-USA begins 24-hour programming. USA opens advertising sales offices in New York and Los Angeles. Time Inc., MCA and Paramount Pictures each acquire one-third ownership of USA Network.

August 1984-Live, exclusive coverage of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship begins on USA.

April 1985-USA Network moves its corporate headquarters from Glen Rock, N.J., to Rockefeller Center in New York.

August 1985-USA signs licensing agreements with Paramount, Viacom, RKO and others for more than 100 movie titles.

June 19, 1987-Time Inc.’s one-third interest in USA Network is acquired by Gulf & Western’s Paramount Pictures Corp. and MCA Inc., making them equal partners in the ownership of USA.

Aug. 31, 1987-USA Network begins addressable scrambling after four months of testing.

November 1987-USA acquires exclusive off-network rights to 92 hours of “Miami Vice” to air over four years in landmark agreement with MCA.

February 1988-USA acquires exclusive off-network pre-syndication rights to 111 hours of the hit mystery series “Murder, She Wrote” for fall 1988 debut.

May 1988-USA announces plans to commit $250 million for the acquisition and development of exclusive original programming, including made-for-television movies and miniseries. Another $50 million is set aside for marketing of the new programming.

July 1988-USA announces it has commissioned a single-season schedule of 24 original, exclusive world premiere movies, the largest original production commitment in the history of cable.

January 1989-USA announces plans to broadcast the 1989 Ryder Cup from England, marking the first airing of the golfing event on national television in the United States.

July 1989-USA announces plans to produce 24 additional world premiere movies for 1989-90, following the success of the first-season commitment.

October 1989-USA announces the acquisition of exclusive rights to 26 current Touchstone Pictures films, marking the first time a basic cable network has pre-empted the entire syndication market on a major motion picture package.

Jan. 31, 1990-“The China Lake Murders,” a USA world premiere suspense drama, receives an 8.4 rating and a 13.5 share for its initial broadcast, according to the Nielsen Micronode Tracking System.

The rating is the highest ever for the world premiere of an original movie.

September 1990-USA signs a six-year agreement with the United States Tennis Association for live, exclusive coverage of the U.S. Open, with at least 80 hours annually of the U.S.’s only Grand Slam tennis event.

January 1991-USA is first among basic cable networks in prime time, finishing 1990 with a 2.3 rating, according to Nielsen.

January 1992-For the second straight year USA is the highest-rated basic cable network in prime time, posting a 2.2 rating.

March 31, 1992-USA Network announces the acquisition of the Sci Fi Channel, which will feature science-fiction, fantasy and horror programming.

July 1992-USA changes its corporate name to USA Networks to reflect its new composition following its acquisition of the Sci Fi Channel.

Sept. 24, 1992-Sci Fi Channel launches with a prime-time presentation of “Star Wars” to 10 million homes, the second-largest launch in cable history.

January 1993-USA Network finishes first among basic cable networks in prime time for the third straight year, earning a 2.3 prime-time average for 1992.

March 1993-USA Network announces the creation of USA Pictures, a new line of high-budget higher-profile movies that will be distributed theatrically worldwide and will air domestically on USA Networks.

November 1993-USA expands its business interests abroad by establishing its international division, USA

Networks International.

December 1993-USA announces a multiyear agreement to serve as the exclusive cable carrier for the French Open Tennis Championships.

January 1994-USA opens its operations and post-production facility in Newport Tower in Jersey City, N.J., to house network operations and technical production units for USA and Sci Fi.

January 1994-USA Networks extends its lease to maintain its corporate headquarters at Rockefeller Center through 2005.

April 1994-USA Latin America launches throughout the region, marking USA’s first international channel launch.

April 1995-USA Networks launches “Erase the Hate,” a multifaceted public affairs campaign focusing on eliminating racism and promoting tolerance.

January 1995-USA finishes first among basic cable networks in prime time for the fifth straight year, earning a 2.3 prime-time average in 1994.

January 1996-USA posts its sixth straight first-place finish in basic cable’s prime-time

ratings race, finishing 1995 with a 2.3 rating.

February 1996-USA Networks announces the creation of USA Enterprises division, which oversees consumer products, new media and

consumer promotions.

May 1996-USA Networks announces agreement with Hallmark Entertainment to develop four high-profile original movies, including “Moby Dick,” the first-ever USA Network miniseries.

May 10, 1996-USA Networks International launches a 24-hour Portuguese-language channel, USA Brazil, in a joint venture with Globosat. It is the company’s third international channel.

June 1996-USA Networks launches its multimillion-dollar “USA Studios” marketing push and new USA network logo. USA Networks launches the USA Studios Web site at www.usanetwork.com. USA Networks partners with the national YWCA in support of the organization’s YWCA Week Without Violence.

September 1996-USA Network extends agreement for exclusive coverage of U.S. Open Tennis Championships through 2002.

November 1996-USA Network and NBC extend agreement to televise the Ryder Cup through 2005.

January 1997-USA’s Sunday Night Heat programming block premieres, featuring “Silk Stalkings,” “Pacific Blue” and “La Femme Nikita.”

April 1997-The U.S. Senate declares April 30 National Erase the Hate and Eliminate Racism Day, legislation inspired by USA Networks’ Erase the Hate campaign.

February 1998-Barry Diller acquires USA Networks, which becomes part of a new company, USA Inc.

March 1998-The premiere of “Moby Dick” on USA Network earns an 8.1 rating, delivering the biggest audience ever for original entertainment programming on basic cable.

April 1998-Kay Koplovitz, founder, chairman and CEO of USA Networks, announces her intention to leave the company. USA Networks announces the appointment of Stephen Brenner as president of operations and Stephen Chao as president of programming and marketing. USA’s WWF Monday Night Wrestling block nets the highest viewership in the history of cable.

August 1998-WWF joins the Sunday Night Heat programming block.

January 1999-PGA Tour “Tee It Up” premieres.

July 1999-The Super Action Tuesday programming block premieres.

March 2001-Doug Herzog joins USA Network as president. USA acquires “Law & Order: SVU.”

December 2001-USA Networks and Vivendi form a new company, Vivendi-Universal.

May 2002-USA Network becomes part of the Universal Television Group.

June 2002-“The Dead Z
one” debuts with a 4.7 household rating and 6.4 million viewers, the highest-rated program in cable history to date.

July 2002-“Monk” debuts with a 3.5 household rating and 4.8 million viewers.

January 2003-PGA Tour Sunday debuts.

April 2003-“Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story” debuts with a 3.6 household rating and 4.3 million viewers. James Woods receives an Emmy nomination for his performance in the title role.

June 2002-American Film Institute begins a relationship with USA, airing a tribute to Tom Hanks. Subsequent AFI lifetime achievement awards go to Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep and George Lucas.

March 2003-“Nashville Star” debuts.

May 2004-NBC acquires USA Network from Vivendi-Universal. Sci Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer is named president of USA Network as well.

July 2004-“The 4400” debuts to a 5.7 household rating and 7.4 million viewers, setting a record for ratings and viewers for basic cable entertainment programming.

March 2005-USA Network expands its original series

programming slate with an updated version of the classic 1970s series “Kojak.”

April 2005-USA signs a deal for the WWE to return to the network schedule in the coming fall season.

June 2005-“The 4400” returns as a regular series. USA Network announces its new brand.

Information courtesy of USA Network