Blood brother is first aid for CBS

Showtime's 'Dexter' to Eye net

As the writers strike enters its second month with no end in sight, repurposing cable series on broadcast networks is becoming a reality.

CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves said Tuesday that CBS plans to repurpose some Showtime series, including the breakout hit "Dexter."

Additionally, NBC is said to have expressed interest in running USA's hip new action drama "Burn Notice."

" 'Dexter' is probably the first one to go on — with some edits," Moonves told reporters at the annual UBS Global Media & Communications Conference in New York. "It fits with our crime shows."

The edgy, offbeat "Dexter," which has become a critical and ratings success for Showtime, stars Michael C. Hall as a Miami police forensics expert who moonlights as a vigilante serial killer.

CBS, of course, is the leader in the forensic crime drama genre with the "CSI" franchise.

Moonves didn't specify when "Dexter" would launch on CBS beyond saying it should come "in the near future."

Now in its second season on Showtime, "Dexter" has broken ratings records for the premium cable network. Its Nov. 18 episode ranked as the most-watched in Showtime history.

In addition to "Dexter," CBS also is considering Showtime's racy period drama "The Tudors," which originally was developed for CBS, and the critically praised dark comedy "Weeds," about a marijuana-peddling soccer mom. However, both will need heavy editing to make it to broadcast primetime.

CBS chief research officer David Poltrack said after Moonves' presentation at the conference that it was hard to forecast how well Showtime's programming would do on the broadcast network, particularly because of what would have to be edited. He noted that Showtime's programming of "Dexter" and "Weeds" generally rated high or higher than broadcast fare in CBS Corp.'s testing of viewer satisfaction.

"There's no reason why that wouldn't translate" from pay cable to broadcast, Poltrack said.

With their scripted series running out of original episodes, the broadcast networks have been exploring the idea of repurposing series from their sister cable networks as a strike contingency.

NBC has been rumored to be looking at a potential second window on the network for such NBC Uni cable series as USA's "Monk" and "Psych" and Sci Fi's "Battlestar Galactica," all produced by Universal. This week, NBC exercised its option to repurpose the Universal-produced "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," which moved from the broadcast network to USA in the fall (HR 12/4). A potential "Burn Notice" acquisition is going to be trickier as the show hails from Fox TV Studios, which is co-owned by News Corp.

According to sources, Fox and ABC, which are considered the least vulnerable in case of a long strike because of their strong reality slates led by their respective blockbuster hits "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars," have not yet seriously considered borrowing fare from such corporate siblings as FX, ABC Family and Lifetime.

Although almost all long-running broadcast series run in cable syndication, the leaps in the other direction are still rare.

ABC has been the most active, rerunning "Monk" in 2002 and the first season of ABC Family's "Kyle XY" in 2006. Warner Bros. TV took its red-hot crime procedural "The Closer" to the broadcast networks a few months ago, but no deal has been struck.

The talks with Showtime are part of CBS' aggressive strategy to prepare for a long writers walkout. On Monday, the network announced a strike-impacted midseason schedule that features three hours of "Big Brother," fresh episodes of "Survivor," "Power of 10," "The New Adventures of Old Christine," "Jericho" and new comedy "The Captain" as well as procedural crime drama reruns.

"We are prepared to have a full schedule (of shows including Showtime) in the event that the writers strike warrants it," Moonves said. "We're certainly not going to go dark."

Georg Szalai reported from New York; Nellie Andreeva reported from Los Angeles. Paul J. Gough in New York contributed to this report.