UPFRONT & CENTER: USA Network Unveils ‘Character’ Lineup

NBC Universal Cable Channel Also Details Advertising Initiatives, Pro-Social Initiative
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USA Network is developing at least four new dramas tied to its “Characters Welcome” branding, and it finalized the rest of its 2008 schedule for its existing shows.

The NBC Universal cable network will premiere its series version of last summer’s limited drama, The Starter Wife, this October Fridays at 10 p.m. as it did last fall with episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. L&O: CI returns June 8 at 9 p.m., followed by new drama In Plain Sightat 10 p.m.

In Plain Sight will premiere with a 76-minute episode with limited commercials through a sponsorship with Proctor & Gamble, USA said.

July brings the second season of Burn Noticeat 10 p.m. starting on the 10th and new seasons of Monk and Psychat 10 p.m. starting on the 18th. The network said it plans to run Monk’s 100th episode Sept. 5.

In development are Royal Pains, about a Hamptons doctor on retainer; White Collar, about a con man who teams up with the FBI to find other criminals; Shirleyville, about an Afghanistan veteran who ends up as mayor of his hometown; and The Nanny Files, about a nanny who helps to solve crimes in her town.

The network announced those projects at its annual upfront presentation to advertisers in New York Wednesday night.

USA is pitching advertisers on the depth of its brand this year, using a concept it called “brandwidth.” So, the pitch goes, USA -- because of the emotional connection viewers feel to the characters in its programming -- is best aligned to pair with advertisers to promote shared brand attributes.

Specifically, USA is promoting two new advertising initiatives -- “Character Project” and “Character Approved.” Under the first, the network will pair with photographers to find an American “character of today,” and Character Approved creatively employs the characters in USA shows alongside those from advertisers’ products. As an example of the latter, USA paired with Windex last year on dreamscape spots in which its Monk lead character cleaned parking meters with the product.

At its upfront, USA also announced plans for a new pro-social initiative called “Characters Unite,” devoted to promoting diversity, and an expansion of its casual-gaming site, “Character Arcade.”

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