Upfronts 2012: USA Network Relies on Stars, Not Execs, to Deliver Message to Ad Buyers

Jeff Wachtel Linda Yaccarino Bonnie Hammer Sigourney Weaver Chris McCumber - H 2012

Pictured: (l-r) Jeff Wachtel, Co-President, USA Network & Co-Head, Universal Cable Productions; Linda Yaccarino, President, Cable Entertainment & Digital Ad Sales, NBCUniversal; Bonnie Hammer, Chairman, NBCU Cable Entertainment & Cable Studios; Sigourney Weaver "Political Animals"; Chris McCumber, Co-President, USA Network, NBCUniversal

The top-rated cable network touts summer miniseries "Political Animals" and "Modern Family" acquisition.

NEW YORK – USA Network became the latest cable network to invade broadcast upfront week and the NBCUniversal net closed the week with a non-traditional upfront that featured no executives on stage but rather relied on the net’s stars to introduce new programming and deliver ratings superlatives.

“USA has been the No. 1 cable network for six years running,” said Suits star Patrick J. Adams, during his scripted banter with co-star Gabriel Macht.

“In our sixth season we defied the odds and actually grew our audience,” said Psych star Dulé Hill, noting the show’s social network footprint and his 110,000 Twitter followers.

The event at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall capped a week of lavish broadcast upfront presentations featuring everyone from Flo Rida (at CW) to Shakira (at Univision) and months of cable presentations.

The crown jewel in the NBCUniversal cable portfolio, USA will break some new ground during he 2012-13 season investing in comedy and expanding beyond its "blue skies" drama formula as early as this summer with the Greg Berlanti-Laurence Mark miniseries Political Animals – a Clinton-esque drama starring Sigourney Weaver. And the clip shown for media buyers gathered at Alice Tully Hall portends a dark and steamy drama complete with Cain and Abel sons and plenty of sex scenes featuring the former president (played by Ciaran Hinds).

USA's comedies include half hours about a dot-com entrepreneur and the staff and patrons at a karaoke bar. The network did not show clips of its comedies at its upfront presentation, but instead relied on the acquisition of Modern Family – coming to USA in 2013 – to carry the comedy message home. A clip featuring the Modern Family picture frame open with stars of USA’s dramas was introduced (via video) by series co-creator Steve Levitan.

And the network also recruited – via social media – fans of its shows to line West 66th St. where more than 100 stood behind metal barriers to scream, cheer and snapped pictures of their favorite USA stars, a strategy that gave the final upfront of the week the feel of a Hollywood premiere.

Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com

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