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USA Rolls on Film Project

3/07/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

USA Network is set to roll cameras on the
original movie genre.

The network, which commissioned its last original film
in 2005, said it will develop a two-hour telefilm starring
NCIS lead Mark Harmon based on the best-selling series
of Prey novels by Pulitzer Prize-winning author John
Sandford.

The announcement follows on the heels of the network’s
decision this past November to green-light a prequel film
to its top-rated series Burn Notice.

The two films are the first original movie projects for
USA since the network produced The Three Wise Guys in
2005, network officials said. In the early 2000s, USA was
averaging close to 20 original movies a year, as it looked
to develop original content to supplement its lineup of acquired
off -network fare.

The network abandoned made-for-TV movies after 2005
to focus on scripted series, which USA president of original
programming Jeff Wachtel said delivered more consistent
and continual ratings returns than one-off movie events.

But with the network producing a slew of original series
such as Burn Notice, Psych, Royal Pains and most recently
Fairly Legal, Wachtel said the network will look to round
out its original offerings with scripted movies.

“We have enough critical mass now in programming
that we’re looking to build out the portfolio,” he said.

USA will look to develop two to three original movies
on a year-to-year basis, Wachtel said, adding that the films
will need to tie in with what’s currently on the network.
For example Prey, which is based on the novel Certain
Prey and pits the book series’ lead character Minneapolis
Deputy Police Chief Lucas Davenport against a lethal
hit woman and a ferociously cunning killer determined to
hunt him down — stars Harmon, who heads up one of the
network’s most popular off -network series, NCIS.

“The rule is it has to reinforce some part of our existing
programming or brand,” he said. “[NCIS] is an important
part of our schedule, and Mark is an important star on our
air, and to be able to add an orignal Mark Harmon movie
into the mix is a win-win.”

Wachtel added that he expects the movies to generate
in the same neighborhood of 4 million to 6 million viewers
that its orignal scripted series average on a week-toweek
basis.

Along with fiction movies, Wachtel said USA will also
look at developing non-fiction documentary films that
help support the brand. The network last year produced
the docu-movie Tom Brokaw Presents: American Character
Along Highway 50
, starring TV journalist Tom Brokaw,
which tied into its diversity-themed “Characters Unite”
initiative.

Along with movies, Wachtel said the network is also
looking at developing some nonscripted projects as well
as comedy series and “event miniseries” like the six-hour
limited series The Starter Wife, which eventually was developed
into a full-fledged series.

 

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