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NBC’s Cable Side Keeps Things Breezy

Hammer says the brand means everything during economic distress.

The NBC Universal cable execs call it the “light, aspirational brand filter.”


It’s the consistently chirpy, nothing-too-serious tone — shared across virtually all USA Network series — that has helped make USA shows including “Monk,” “Burn Notice” and the recently launched “Royal Pains” among basic cable’s top-rated offerings.


“It’s the right time and the right place for it,” said the architect for the brand strategy, NBC Universal Cable President Bonnie Hammer, after USA’s TCA panel Wednesday.


Hammer added that viewers are finding such escapism particularly relevant amid recession, war and other crises.


With USA ranking as the top-rated cable network each quarter for the last three years, and projected once again this year to usurp broadcast network The CW in key demos, it’s also a brand ethos that’s spreading rapidly.


Recently rebranded USA sibling Syfy, for example, just had its best July ever, with light, quirky original series “Eureka” and “Warehouse 13” making the network the third most watched cable outlet for scripted programming for the month, trailing only USA and TNT.


Even Syfy’s upcoming “Stargate Universe,” which on the surface, harkens back to the darker science-fiction tonality of the channel’s seminal hit, “Battlestar Galactica,” has its lighter, comedic moments.


“The best thing about the new brand is that it frees us to explore that,” said Mark Stern, exec VP of original series for Syfy, noting that the broader-skewing Syfy moniker — while initially ridiculed — is helping the channel to broaden beyond the darker, male-skewing shows.


With this creative tone now succeeding across two cable platforms, will we soon see quirky, character-driven shows like “Monk” and “Eureka” on NBC?


For now, Hammer said, it’ll remain confined to her purview.


“Right now, we have USA, Syfy, the emerging networks and the cable studio, and I’ll just leave it at that,” she explained.