It’s been a big ratings summer for cable networks, in particular USA Network saw its freshman Royal Pains hit big, and top draw Burn Notice’s ratings kept rising.

But it seems that with all that summer cable success, there’s come a bit of a crowing problem (from MediaWeek):

With so many swimmers splashing around in the programming pool, a few networks have decided to try and make a splash in the fall, launching series in the wake of the new broadcast season. After breezing to a decisive prime-time ratings win this summer––its average nightly delivery of 3.59 million total viewers topped runner-up TNT by 46 percent––USA will bow its latest original strip, the con-artist drama White Collar, in October.

And now USA looks to challenge the broadcast networks during their traditional big fall season.

According to Bonnie Hammer, USA is still mulling over where it will position White Collar, and while leading out of Monk on Friday nights at 10 p.m. may be the most viable time slot, Thursdays would offer a younger audience. In either case, the show will debut in the latter half of the month. “We intend to launch it late enough that people have already sampled the broadcast menu and are interested in seeing something fresh,” said Hammer, who oversees USA as president, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Production.

And USA’s not the only cable network stepping up for the fall, FX is also challenging broadcast nets with scripted shows this fall:

FX will bow two new comedies in the fourth quarter of ‘09, eyeballing the animated strip Archer for an October release while prepping the fantasy football farce The League for the following month. Meanwhile, Sons of Anarchy revs up its sophomore run on Sept. 8, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns Sept. 17 and Nip/Tuck begins its long goodbye on Oct. 14.

John Landgraf, president and general manager, FX Networks, said the two new comedies will appear on Thursday nights, with one leading out of Philly. “We know there’s this rich audience of comedy watchers from 8-10 p.m. on Thursdays, so we’re going to try and pick those viewers up at 10 o’clock,” Landgraf said. “Depending on how we schedule, we’ll have up to 33 weeks of original comedy.”

I like the land grab for scripted cable viewers at 10pm. NBC has given up weekday 10pm scripted programming for Leno, and ABC looks shaky at 10pm every weeknight except Thursday. CBS is the only broadcaster playing with scripted strength at 10pm most weekdays.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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