Cable Giants USA, Turner Flex for Ad Crowd

Programmers Wind Down Upfront Season
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NEW YORK — USA Network and the Turner Broadcasting System networks showed off their programming strength during the broadcast networks’ traditional upfront week by rolling out new scripted dramas and comedies, as well as reality shows, featuring top-name talent during their respective upfront presentations last week.

USA last Thursday (May 16) announced its expansion into the comedy arena with the development of two halfhour sitcoms and one comedy pilot order.

The new comedy series in development include Sirens from Denis Leary (Rescue Me), which focuses on the lives of three Chicago EMTs; and Playing House, featuring two friends who reunite at critical times in their lives. In addition, the network has set a pilot order for Love Is Dead, a single-camera comedy set at a company that specializes in breaking-up romantic relationships.

USA will also add to its scripted drama series lineup with several new shows, including Horizon, a period drama from Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) set at the height of World War II, and The Arrangement, from Numb3rs creators Cheryl Heuton, about a Columbian woman who trades her tragic and mysterious past for a fresh start in Miami by marrying an ambitious politician.

“The major messaging for us is the expansion of the portfolio,” USA Network co-president Jeff Wachtel told Multichannel News. “We’ve talked about entering the reality and comedy space, and this is the year that we’re really walking the walk.”

Turner Broadcasting announced several scripted and reality shows featuring high-profile directors and actors during its Wednesday upfront presentation. The list of talent signed on for TNT and TBS projects included Steven Spielberg (TNT scripted series Portal House and Peter Gunn), Steve Carell (TBS’s scripted series Tribeca), Diablo Cody (TBS unscripted series Me Time With Diablo Cody), Denis Leary (TNT unscripted series Burn), Sylvester Stallone (TNT scripted series The Last Cop), Dick Wolf (TNT unscripted series Cop Swap), Jamie Foxx (TBS scripted series Dad, Stop Embarrassing Me) and James Duff (TNT scripted series Lew Archer).

The new projects join TNT’s announced reality series The Hero, produced by and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which debuts June 6.

“For a decade, we’ve been beating the drum the loudest — that cable is as good as broadcast,” said Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks. “Now, our industry has reached a tipping point. From creative strength to ratings power, cable has emerged as the leader in television. I’m proud of the role we’ve played at TNT and TBS. Today, we’re looking toward the next horizon — becoming a multiscreen video company serving multiple audiences.”

Turner also announced that it will be live-streaming TNT and TBS via new apps for tablets and smartphones, becoming the first national entertainment networks to stream on-air content live across multiple platforms 24/7. Programming will be streamed through the networks’ websites and a pair of newly created Watch TNT and Watch TBS apps, network officials said.

Broadcasting & Cable business editor Jon Lafayette contributed to this story.

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