Ion adds off-net dramas

'The Dead Zone,' 'ER' among series acquired

Ion Television is loading up on off-network series.

At its upfront presentation Thursday, the network announced the acquisitions of USA Network's "The Dead Zone" and primetime rights to the veteran NBC drama "ER."

That follows the recent pickups of "Boston Legal," "Ghost Whisperer" and "Criminal Minds."

Ion brass told Madison Avenue that the acquisitions highlight its transition toward a more advertiser-friendly adults 25-54 demo and its new look under the slogan "Positively Entertaining!"

"We're not your 'Mama's Family' channel anymore," said the network's chief marketing officer, Eleo Hensleigh.

Added CEO Brandon Burgess, "We will take Ion Television to a new level."

In an homage to one of Ion's off-net additions, the presentation opened with an old-style gag reel placing three of the net's execs in scenes from "Legal." It was followed by an appearance by Denny Crane himself, William Shatner, complete with a cigar and glass of scotch.

Shatner opined that he didn't like the name Ion. "Sounds like something you find in space," the "Star Trek" icon said.

"ER" and "Dead Zone" are slated to begin airing in the summer, followed by the other off-net series in fall and later.

After the presentation, Burgess said Ion also plans to enter the original series arena by launching its first original show -- either scripted, comedy or talk -- targeted toward black audiences by next year's upfront.

Ion also plans to air 12 original made-for-TV movies from partner RHI Entertainment on the weekends.

The network's lineup also includes "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper," "M*A*S*H," "The Steve Harvey Show," "Family Feud" and "Quantum Leap."