Cable executives, coming off a summer in which their originals trumped broadcast 2:1 in the 18-49 demo, are already laying plans to tilt broadcast's dominance next fall and throughout the year.
NBC Universal's USA and its sister network Sci Fi are among the leading cable networks stepping up efforts to premiere projects year-round. USA just signed a trio of script development deals for dramas it could debut outside of the summer and Sci Fi greenlighted to series a spin-off of its popular Ghost Hunters show.
The new projects, which could either run outside of summer or make room for existing shows to do so, build upon slates of other year-round contenders that both networks announced at their July TCA presentations.
USA is working on a project from Michael Jacobs, the writing/producing visionary behind ABC's long-running Friday night family-targeted programming block, TGIF. Jacobs, whose hits included Boy Meets World and Charles in Charge, has signed on to write Joe Prophet, a lighthearted hour-long drama about a man who may or may not be an angel of God.
The network has also ordered a script for a series spin-off of the 2005 feature film Thank You for Smoking. The show, from Universal Media Studios with writer Jim Dodson and the film's producer David Sacks, would pick up where the movie left off.
The new pilots, all designed to fit with USA's character-driven brand of serious drama with light overtones, join another trio the network announced at its summer press tour presentation—Halo (Fox TV Studios), The Expert (Universal/DreamWorks) and Citizen's Arrest (Universal). The shows would likely shoot in early 2008.
"We may start taking some of our successful shows and launching them in other seasons," says original programming chief Jeff Wachtel.
USA's sister network Sci Fi is also looking to increase its year-round output. The network has greenlighted to series status a spin-off of its popular Ghost Hunters —Ghost Hunters International—and plans to debut six episodes in January.
"It is definitely a goal of ours to keep reality on all year round," says Sci Fi original programming chief Mark Stern.