USA Network is hoping to produce an encore performance of its hit-filled summer in the fall with an aggressive original programming lineup which includes its first ever scripted series launch.
In October, the network will launch White Collar, a dramedy which pairs a con artist with an FBI agent, to run alongside venerable ratings hits Psych and Monk. That gives the characters channel a formidable scripted-series lineup to compete head to head with broadcast television's new fall shows.
USA president Bonnie Hammer is confident the cable industry's No. 1-rated network thus far this year can be a ratings juggernaut year round by offering quality, scripted fare virtually every month of the year.
“We're getting to a point, based on our success, that we should be programming in every quarter of the year and not just in the summer or January and February,” she said. “As we grow up and feel more secure as we see our audience build, we're taking more risks and willing to go toe to toe in seasons that we would shy away from before.”
Prior to this year, the network mostly confined to summer the launch of such new shows as the medical-tinged Royal Pains, which averaged a new-series-high 7.1 million viewers this summer. Returning series like Monk, Burn Notice and Psych were kept within the June to August and January to March timeframes.
But given the network's overall success last year — USA averaged a cable industry high 2.8 million primetime viewers in 2008 — and its record-breaking summer performance (the network drew 3.6 million viewers from June 1 to Aug. 30), Hammer feels the network is ready to expand its original programming schedule into the fall.
Hammer believes White Collar, which stars Matthew Bomer (Chuck, Tru Calling), Tim DeKay (Tell Me You Love Me, Carnivale), Tiffani Thiessen (What About Brian, Fastlane) and Willie Garson (Sex and the City, John From Cincinnati), is the perfect vehicle to launch the network's charge into the fourth quarter.
“In White Collar, we believe we have a show that can not only thrive but survive in fourth quarter,” he said. “We think the tone and the flavor of the show is big enough and fun enough that it will work.”
It also doesn't hurt to have original episodes of popular series like Psych and Monk joining White Collar on USA's fall schedule for the first time.
For Monk, which stars Tony Shalhoub in his Emmy award-winning role as an obsessive compulsive detective, the show's fall run marks the first time USA has aired the popular series' entire season over consecutive weeks.
Psych — starring James Roday as a pseudo-psychic detective — will take USA's traditional scheduling route by splitting its 16-episode season between runs during the summer and winter months.
Assuming White Collar continues USA's recent run of successful scripted series, Hammer says that the network will have six original series on tap for 2010 — all set to launch at various times throughout the year.
“We're just about to begin production on a pilot for a new series, Covert Affairs,” she said. “We should have a couple more series for next summer.”