In its first off-network scripted series acquisition, Discovery Health Network last week nabbed 141 episodes of the hospital drama Chicago Hope.
The multiple Emmy award-winning series, which ran on CBS from 1994 to 2000, will air weekdays on Discovery Health at 7 p.m., starting next month, according to interim general manager Eileen O’Neill.
The skein, which starred Christine Lahti, Mark Harmon, Mandy Patinkin, Adam Arkin, Barbara Hershey, Lauren Holly and Hector Elizondo, is scheduled to debut on the network Aug. 1, as part of an eight-hour marathon hosted by Elizondo.
“Chicago Hope represents to us an extremely high-quality fiction opportunity,” O’Neill said. “We felt like this property in particular was not overexposed, had tremendous storylines, had great characters and actors and we felt like this was a great home for it.”
O’Neill hopes the series will help attract new viewers and provide a strong lead-in to its primetime schedule. Through June, Discovery Health has averaged a 0.3 primetime household rating, a 50% increase over the same period in 2003, according to an ABC Cable analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.
“We hope it draws sampling for our network and drives the fringe daypart ratings up,” she said. “I also expect it to be a platform into prime so that we can have very targeted promotions for some of our bigger series.”
Despite Hope’s acquisition, O’Neill said the network is not planning to aggressively bid for other health-themed scripted shows.
“There’s no quota for a certain amount of hours in this format,” she said. “If there’s another property out there that has the same potential that we think this has for our network then we’ll look at it as part of a broader opening of our editorial. It’s more reflective of our overall commitment to strong, quality medical programming.”
O’Neill also said that while Discovery Health isn’t ready to develop its own scripted series yet, it is considering docudramas based on real-life events.
“Similar to The History Channel with its Breaking Las Vegas, we want to do fictionalized real-life events in the medical and health area as an expansion of our offerings for viewers interested in medical and health programming,” she said.