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USA’s Hammer: Still Building

6/10/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

As the second of USA Network’s summer original series premiered last night, president Bonnie Hammer is contemplating a new night for future skeins and whether Kojak will return for a second-season run.

Supernatural series The Dead Zone made its fourth-season bow on June 12 (last night) at 10 p.m., following the second-season debut of The 4400 the week before. Quirky detective series Monk returns for its fourth campaign on Friday, July 8.

Hammer, who’s also president of NBC Universal sister network Sci Fi Channel, said USA will look to bow several new original series early next year, although she would not provide specifics.

'SECOND NIGHT’

She also said the network might look to establish another night of original-series content. With Friday-night competition coming from the broadcast networks — as well as USA’s sister network Sci Fi Channel, with its powerful lineup of Battlestar Galactica and the two Stargate series — Hammer said the network may seek to establish another evening beachhead from which to launch originals.

“What I would love to do is have two solid nights of original programming; hopefully maintain Sunday and build a second night, which may or may not be Friday,” she said. “We have to be strategic.

“Just because we’ve owned [Friday nights] in the summer doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll always be the right way. I think our programming is so strong that we can be competitive almost any night now.”

What was also undecided by press time was the future of Kojak, which averaged a 2.6 household rating for the premieres of its 9-episode run, which began in March.

Hammer said ratings for the high-profile series — starring Ving Rhames as a current-day version of the lollipop-sucking detective made famous by Telly Savalas in the 1970s — were admirable. But the skein suffered against Grey’s Anatomy, ABC’s powerhouse freshman medical drama.

“It wasn’t a [ratings] home run, but it was a ratings success for us,” she said. “We took a lot of risks by scheduling it in a time slot that had a lot of [broadcast] network competition.”

Hammer said USA has yet to decide about a sophomore run for Kojak, a show she said she liked, but one that’s received mixed reviews from critics.

“We made a big investment in the show, and it’s definitely a contender for pickup, but we don’t know exactly where we’re going now,” Hammer said. “We have a lot of [shows] in development right now, and we have to look at the number of slots we have open. There’s only so much [money] we can invest in original programming.”

The 4400 came out of the box strong, if not at the level of its rookie run. The drama about the lives of 4,400 people who were abducted by aliens and then returned to Earth drew a 4.0 household rating and 5.3 million viewers, ranking it first among all primetime basic cable shows for the night.

STRONG, BUT NO 5.7

The series, however, failed to match the 5.7 rating for its premiere episode last summer. Overall, The 4400 averaged a 4.6 rating for its six-episode run in 2004.

Nevertheless, USA Network president Bonnie Hammer said she was satisfied with the ratings.

“What’s so hard for us is that the bar is so high … we had an outrageous premiere number last year,” she said. “But when you take out last year’s premiere performance, we’re right around where the season [rating] was. To have the beginning of a regular series start where your miniseries equaled out last year — it’s great for the network.”

September