USA Network, in Strategic Programming Shift, Pulls Plug on Projects

Oct 10, 2014  •  Post A Comment

USA Network is refocusing its programming to emphasize an area where it has traditional strength. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that the cable channel will concentrate on drama series, scaling back on half-hour scripted comedies.

The network will stick with its existing comedy series, Denis Leary’s “Sirens” and the legal comedy “Benched,” but has released most of its existing comedy scripts, Andreeva writes. “Benched” is set to debut Oct. 28.

“USA began pursuing a move into half-hour comedy after its big off-network acquisition of ‘Modern Family’ in 2010,” the story notes. “Looking for original companions to launch off of ‘Modern Family’ repeats, the network began developing and piloting half-hour projects, and at the end of 2011, it hired a dedicated comedy executive, Melanie Frankel.”

Last year, USA Network greenlighted its first original comedy series in 15 years, “Sirens,” along with “Playing House,” followed by an order for “Benched.” Since then, the network has focused on drama, with pilot orders for projects including “Stanistan.”

Andreeva writes, “Frankel is still at the network but, given the fact that there is little comedy development to oversee, she is expected to look for opportunities elsewhere. Kyle Chalmers, manager of original programming, who had been working on both comedy and drama projects, is now focusing entirely on drama.”

USA Network is shifting gears because of the trend for cable networks to focus their brands in order to stand out from their rivals. A&E, for instance, recently cut back on scripted series in order to refocus on unscripted programming, the piece notes.

“USA is planning a big move on the drama side. Word is the network brass are high on all four pilots that have been greenlighted, and with another one coming down the pike, the plan is to pick up as many of them to series as possible for 2015, which will have the most new drama series launches in the network’s history,” Andreeva writes.

At the same time, “Modern Family” hasn’t performed as well as expected, although it’s a profitable show for the network, she adds.


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