TV Upfront

USA Fills Pipeline With Comedies and Reality Shows

While July Drama 'Political Animals' Aims to Show Edgier Side

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USA Network is working to shake up its image as the "blue-skies drama" channel with a new push into reality programming this summer and half-hour comedies further down the road. The network, part of Comcast's NBC Universal division, will pitch its upcoming lineup to advertisers this afternoon.

'Royal Pains'
'Royal Pains' Credit: USA

USA's upfront presentation comes amid uncharacteristic ratings weakness for the network, which lost its coveted spot as the No. 1 cable network for adults 18-to-49 in prime time in the first quarter to TBS. USA had held the top spot for six years.

Now USA Co-Presidents Chris McCumber and Jeff Wachtel hope unscripted series and comedies will expand the network's audience again, starting with "The Moment," a reality show about people getting a second chance to live out their dreams and hosted by Kurt Warner ,

USA has also picked up the pilot for an unscripted series with the working title "Bride or Best Man." And it has Mark Burnett's "Romancing the Globe" in development. USA previously announced the pilot for a U.S. version of U.K. series "The Choir."

USA added four comedies -- "Regulars," "Benched," "The Diccio Brothers" and "Start Up" -- to its development slate. It also picked up pilots for "Paging Dr. Freed" and "Sirens."

USA will anchor its lineup of new comedies with syndicated episodes of "Modern Family" starting in 2013, a bid to duplicate the success TBS has seen with its reruns of "The Big Bang Theory."

Like TBS, whose parent, Turner Broadcast, held its upfront on Wednesday, USA will use "Modern Family" as a launch pad for its own sitcoms and find its voice in the genre, Mr. Wachtel said.

Even USA's dramas, which have been dubbed by some as formulaic, are taking an edgier twist. Mr. McCumber and Mr. Wachtel called out "Political Animals," a six-episode series starting in July, as a more edgy offering than many of its "blue skies" series, which include "Royal Pains" and "Covert Affairs."

USA, like every other network making pitches to advertisers over the last two months, also has a large slate of digital initiatives on offer, with six social tie-ins that include partnerships with Capital One, Ford, Lincoln, Lexus and Toyota.

"Covert Affairs," for example, has a video-based branching-narrative story underwritten by Capital One that follows secondary character Augie through his first mission after being blinded.

"Suits" will have a social gaming tie-in and the "Burn Notice'" comic book will return with a third volume.

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