Cable’s summer TV season is off to a blazing start. Ad-supported cable networks began the 2003 summer viewing period with their highest share of the 2002/03 season, nabbing an average prime-time share of 54.3 according to a Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau analysis of Nielsen data for May 26 to June 1. Broadcasters, meanwhile, continued to slip, recording an aggregate prime-time share of 38.8 for the period — their lowest for the TV season to date. Cable’s upper hand continued through last week, when the CAB reported a 54.0 average prime-time share for June 16 to 22 for ad-supported cable, versus a 36.9 for ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN, WB and PAX collectively. Cable also topped the seven broadcast nets by almost 10 million homes — a season high — and 9.3 rating points. Those viewers who do watch broadcast nets are sticking with repeats: 15 of the top 16 most-watched programs in prime time for June 16 to 22 were reruns. And of the new reality shows being trotted out by broadcasters this summer, only NBC’s Last Comic Standing finished in the week’s top 20. Cable is winning more loyal viewers thanks to its original programming this summer. Monk drew a record 5.4 million viewers for its sophomore season debut on June 20. Not only was the telecast the highest-rated season-two premiere for an original scripted series on basic cable ever, it was Monk‘s strongest household rating to date. The nation held its breath as James Gandolfini’s salary demands this spring threatened the future of The Sopranos — and the collective sigh of relief was deafening when HBO chairman Chris Albrecht negotiated a settlement and even convinced David Chase to stick around for a sixth season. Factor in the national frenzy this month over the return of Sex and the City for its final season, and NBC chairman Bob Wright must be once again urging his troops (as he did in the now-famous memo that was leaked two years ago) to put the NBC peacock in Manolo Blahnik shoes — and make the bird pack some heat for good measure. NBC’s new great hope is in fact a seasoned cable programmer. The network’s entertainment president Jeff Zucker earlier this month poached Kevin Reilly from FX to help save the broadcaster from an almost guaranteed post-Friends slump. Cable’s programming strategists are determined to keep vexing Wright and his broadcast brethren this summer. “Summer has traditionally been a great time for cable networks to make gains, and this summer it’s getting more competitive,” says Game Show Network president and CEO Rich Cronin, who on June 15 launched two new series — Chuck Woolery: Naturally Stoned and National Lampoon’s Funny Money — and brought back Cram, featuring a reunion/face-off between former Brady Bunch costars Susan “Cindy” Olsen and Christopher “Peter” Knight, and the Woolery-hosted Lingo. “July is a sweeps month, although it’s the least important of them, and we try to avoid September too because of all the traffic there, so that still leaves summer as an important time for us,” Cronin says of his series’ timing. “We’re already off to a great start with our June 15 Sunday Night Buzz [block debut] and we’re hopeful that it will just build from here.” E! Networks EVP of entertainment Mark Sonnenberg knows that summer is no longer a single-occupancy berth for cable brought about by broadcast going on hiatus. “We have moved to more of a 52-week year programming philosophy,” he says. “I think in the past you tend to look at non-sweep months, and for cable the summer has always been a great place to try and get sampling for new shows. And while that predominantly is still true, it’s no longer the only strategy that’s out there because every programmer is using the summer now.” Historically, cable programmers were able to draw attention to their new series and originals while broadcast networks took the summer off. “The broadcast networks are now aggressively scheduling in the summer, so to just think that the summer is the only or best time to launch new shows for cable may or may not be true,” says Sonnenberg. “There might still be merits to using the summer because it’s still not as competitive as a broadcast sweep month.” The hope is that constantly refreshing the lineup will keep bringing viewers back for more. “We’re introducing new shows throughout the year. Last year we introduced shows in January, March, April, June, July, August — pretty much every month — and on Style we’ve been introducing a new show virtually every month since the beginning of ’03. But we do still tend to take advantage of the summer, and we look to be opportunistic wherever we can in introducing new shows, wherever we think we can get the best sampling.” Stephen Schwartz, Style’s SVP of programming, feels the lighthearted, fun feeling that people associate with summer makes it a perfect time to introduce his new shows. “We’re not really coming out with ‘summer’ programming, but we’re taking the opportunity this summer to premiere a number of programs and do some new things that are setting the network off in a new direction,” he says. “We’ve got four shows premiering this summer including the Modern Girls’ Guide to Life, which is a sassy, informational show for women. It’s packed full of information you can use with really fun regular characters.” Although Schwartz is also introducing the more serious reality series A Second Look, which will give physical and emotional makeovers to men and women in need, its uplifting transformations will work with the prevailing fun mood on Style this summer. Schwartz is also banking on Style Court — where unsuspecting folks get hauled before a judge for real-life fashion crimes such as a mullet-coiffed hairstyle — to keep things lively through August. Host Henry Roth is not only a judge but a wedding dress designer and a disc jockey. “It’s not just about clothing. It could be the car you drive or the bad selections of furniture you’ve made,” Schwartz says. Lifetime EVP of entertainment Barbara Fisher showed clips from four pilots in development at the network’s upfront this spring. “We are very excited about our two new dramas, as we did pick up 1-800 Missing and Wild Card,” she says. “I can honestly say it was an excruciating decision because we wouldn’t have shown clips from all four of them at our upfront if we didn’t love them all. They all accomplished what we do, which is to stay on brand…so our core audience feels we’re delivering what they want while at the same time make sure that the message is out there that we’re growing and changing and expanding and doing some new things. There is the opportunity for a fresh voice.” Fisher’s other challenge is to complement the network’s existing strengths in Strong Medicine and The Division that anchor Sunday nights while opening a new night of original programming on Saturdays. “We’re so proud of those shows, but we wanted to bring something new to the network,” she says. “We wanted our next foray, because it is a big deal for us to open a new night of drama, to bring in new areas that we hadn’t been before tonally, a lot more humor. But economically we had to make a choice.” Viewers can see the fruits of Fisher’s efforts in August, when 1-800 Missing‘s unconventional heroines played by Gloria Reuben and Brooke Haslett (whose character sees clues to finding missing people in her dreams) and Wild Card‘s Joely Fisher join the Lifetime lineup. Summer is also a time to charm viewers with the kind of programming they don’t get from the big broadcasters, such as themed weekends and complementary documentaries. “TNT is really in overdrive, and that’s really informed the strategy for the movies this summer,” says Michael Wright, SVP of movies and miniseries for TNT, which is claiming the No. 1 spot this quarter thanks to an average 2.3 household rating. The network’s next big original movie is Prince Charming on July 13 (which accounts for a good chunk of the $350 million Turner has allocated for original programming on TNT and TBS). “We’re using Prince Charming as the anchor for a whole fun romance weekend around classic love stories.” His compadre at Turner Classic Movies, SVP and GM Tom Karsch, will showcase behind-the-scenes documentaries to complement a lineup of classic movies such as The Wizard of Oz on July 6. “We do everything from five-minute introductions to documentaries,” says Karsch. “For us the focus this summer is our movie festivals, including the salute to the year 1939 in July, which was perhaps the greatest year in Hollywood history with films including The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington… We show The Wizard of Oz every July 4 weekend, and we package it differently each year” to give it a fresh context. “We traditionally put some of our best product in the summer, because it’s still such a great opportunity…to slide in there and hit the occasional double or home run,” says Bill Cox, SVP of programming at TBS. “So we will put what we know will be our best-rated original movie of the year in there plus some of our stronger broadcast premieres. I think our strongest movie of the year is coming in August, Red Water, in which a deadly bull shark gets into a freshwater lake in Louisiana. We will surround that with movies like Deep Blue Sea, so we think it’s going to be one of our biggest nights of the year.” “Summer is still an important time for us to launch new shows,” says Jim Samples, GM of Cartoon Network. “It used to be we’d do it earlier in the summer, when the kids got off school. But when we became a mature network it was important to push back just a little bit so our ratings crescendoed throughout the year. Now we’re launching more things later in the summer so we can build towards fall.” That strategy has been paying dividends. Cartoon had a 1.6 rating in the second quarter, beating out USA. Of course, a perennial summer pastime is watching sports. While ESPN’s networks have the waterfront covered, what’s most exciting to SVP of original entertainment Ron Semiao won’t have any surprise endings. “What I’m most excited about this summer is the launch of our first scripted dramatic series, Playmakers, on Aug. 26,” he says of the ensemble drama about a fictional football team. “While we’ve done two movies so far, this is going to be our first series, and the show looks very slick. We’re very happy with it. “With our networks having so much live event programming, there really is only a certain time of the year in which we can consistently schedule something like a scripted dramatic series,” Semiao adds. “Viewers will find a basketball game no matter what time it’s on, but with a scripted series we need to have it on at a consistent time so people know when it’s on and develop a habit for it. So our window of opportunity is Aug. 26 through Nov. 4, when we’ll be running this series over 11 Tuesdays.” The Tennis Channel is looking forward to more launches this summer, in addition to leveraging its namesake sport’s summer strength. “Bright House Networks in Tampa will be launching us, and we can leverage a lot of tie-ins to our programming,” says the network’s founder and president Steve Bellamy. “Tampa is where the [namesake for the original series] Nick Bollettieri Academy is located and the Women’s Tour is also located there. Nick does instruction on-air for us, so we want to help Bright House by leveraging all those pro players in that market by getting them to do appearances, do contests, go out to dinner with contest winners.” Now in almost 17 million homes, Fine Living president Ken Solomon is eager to position his network as the official network of summer, with wall-to-wall summer-themed programming including The Perfect Summer Party on July 1. “We want watching Fine Living to be doing fine living,” he says. “People tune in for advice, while being entertained. You may not be able to take the trip of your life or pursue your passion — but you can feel like you are just by watching.” Whether designated for a summer time slot or not, original programming on cable has to have one common element. “The one thing we hear after series is storytelling, storytelling, storytelling,” says Gary Lico, whose company CableReady sells and distributes shows by the producers of such cable hit series as Discovery’s Monster House and Court TV’s Forensic Files. “That could apply to a relationship show, a makeover show, or anything. What’s the hook, what’s the emotional payoff for the viewer, what story are you trying to tell? It’s not just about having fun and taping folks on vacation just because it’s summer. It’s got to tell a great story.” A&E Sunday “art of the everyday” two-hour lifestyle block (July 6) with All Year Round With Katie Brown, The Well Seasoned Traveler, Sell This House and Makeover Mamas; MI-5 (July 22), Take This Job… (Aug. 6) features Andrew Luster bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman; Mayor of Casterbridge movie (Aug. 17). ABC Family Original movies: Lucky 7 with Kimberly Williams-Paisley (July 20) and See Jane Date (August). Unscripted series: Dance Fever (July 13), Perfect Match: New York (July 27), Tying the Knot: The Wedding of Melissa Joan Hart (July 27). Teen series: The Brendan Leonard Show and Switched! (May 26). Music special: Ashanti (August). AMC The AMC Project: Hollywood and the Muslim World (July 14), Bruce Lee: The Lost Interview (July 27), The AMC Project: Gay Hollywood (Aug. 11). ANIMAL PLANET Specials: Lance Burton’s Guerilla Magic (July 1), Big Cat Magic (July 1), Eukanuba Tournament of Champions (July 12). Series: Pet Story (July 1), The Future Is Wild (July 8), Animal Kidding (July 18), The Pet Psychic (July 7). BBC AMERICA Red Cap (June 30), Bargain Hunt (June 30), House Invaders (July 3), Cash in the Attic (July 11), Ground Force marathon (July 22), Ground Force America (July 29), John Hannah special: Circus (Aug. 16) and Rebus (Aug. 18); 3 Non-Blondes (Aug. 10). BET Annual BET Awards Show scored a record-breaking 4.3 rating for the network on June 24; rest of summer features mainstays Black Star Power Cinema, Comicview and 106 & Park. BRAVO Songwriters Hall of Fame (July 9), Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (July 15), Boy Meets Boy (July), Singing in the Shadow: The Children of Rock Royalty (July 27), The West Wing launch tribute: All the Presidents’ Movies (Aug. 7), Desilu (Aug. 24), CARTOON Cyborg 009 (June 30), Justice League special (July 5), Teen Titans (July 19), Christmas in July special (July 25), Code of the Samurai (July 28), The Big O (Aug. 3), Duck Dodgers (Aug. 23), Knights of the Zodiac anime (August). CMT Ultimate Country Home Marathon (July 4), Inside Fame: Marty Stuart (July 12), Inside Fame: Terri Clark (July 19), Cowboy Cool Theater (weekends in July). COMEDY CENTRAL I’m With Busey (June 17), Reno 911! (July 23), Heroes of Jewish Comedy (July 7), The Man Show season 5 with new host Joe Rogan (Aug. 17), Denis Leary roast (Aug. 10). COURT TV Closing Arguments with Nancy Grace (July 14), Trial Heat with Lisa Bloom and James Curtis (July 14), Guilty Pleasure: The Extraordinary World of Dominick Dunne (July 23); Dominick Dunn’s Power, Privilege and Justice (July 30), Smoking Gun TV (Aug. 20). CSTV Season of Hope: The Diane Geppi-Aikens Story (July 1), the Honda-Broderick Cup (July 23) and the Cape Cod League’s All-Star Game (Aug. 1). C-SPAN Rebuilding Iraq special (June 30-July 3). DISCOVERY Full Throttle Mondays cont. with Monster Garage: Toyota Tundra/Motorcycle Launchers (June 30); Discovery Quest: Nefertiti special (Aug. 17). DISCOVERY HEALTH America’s Birth Day Marathon (July 4), Transplanting Memories (July 19), Plastic Surgery: Before and After (July 21), Secrets of Superstar Fitness (July 24), Curse of the Elephant Man (July 30). DISCOVERY WINGS Flight Simulator special (July). DISNEY CHANNEL New episodes of That’s So Raven (July 11), Kim Possible (July 18), The Proud Family (July 25); Movies: Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off (July 18) and The Cheetah Girls original movie plus a new episode of Lizzie McGuire (“My Dinner with Mr. Dig”) in August. Playhouse Disney: Stanley’s Great Big Animal Adventure (all July); Pooh Friendship Day (Aug. 1). DIY Help on the Homefront (July 4), Major League Remodel marathon (July 12), Watering Your Lawn (July 21), Growing Roses (Aug. 11). E! 101 Shocking Moments in Entertainment (July 13), Facing Fame (July 20), Love Chain (July 20). Continuing: The Michael Essany Show, It’s Good To Be, Celebrities Uncensored, Star Dates II, Nearly Famous 2: More Vegas Showgirls. ESPN Today at Wimbledon (July 5), Beg, Borrow & Deal 2 (July 8), World Series of Poker (July 8), ESPY Awards (July 16); Playmakers (Aug. 26). ESPN2: Street Ball: The And 1 Mix Tape Tour (July 8); Friday night Block Party cont. EWTN Pilgrimage: A Rediscovery of Catholic Tradition (July 2) FAMILYNET My Life So Far: Andy Andrews (July 3). FINE LIVING Found In America: A Year on the Road, Born American and 10 Perfect Places to Live in America (July 4); Summer-themed specials include Perfect Summer Party (July 1) and Five Perfect Summer Parties (Aug. 3); Day of Nothing marathon (Labor Day weekend). FOOD Highlights this summer include Summer Unwrapped (June 30), Bocuse d’Or (July 5), Eating Out Loud: Miami (July 27), Into the Fire (July), Trivia Unwrapped (Aug. 25). FOX SPORTS EN ESPAŃOL Soccer highlights include Copa Toyota Libertadores final (July 2), La Recopa championship (July 12), Copa Sudamericana (July 17). FOX SPORTS WORLD Las Vegas Darts Classic (July 3), ChampionsWorld Series (July 22) plus soccer and rugby galore. FUSE Sprite Remix Countdown (July 4), Sessions@AOL (Aug. 19), ¡Marcha! on Monday nights. FX Daring plastic surgery drama Nip/Tuck (July 22); Orlando Jones Show continues nightly. Friday Night Fix 13 week block (July 18) of unscripted original programming will feature six different shows such as Hurt Bert and The Hitchhiker Chronicles. G4 Series of five Achieving the Glow specials lead up to Aug. 8 final, G-Phoria, featuring the Glow Awards. GAME SHOW NETWORK Summer Blockbuster event (July 5) and Games Across America launch this summer; Sunday Night Buzz block continues with new shows National Lampoon’s Funny Money and Chuck Woolery: Naturally Stoned plus new episodes of Lingo and Cram. GOLF All golf all the time: more hours of live golf coverage than all other networks combined, including the PGA Tour and European and Canadian Tours. HALLMARK Herbie the Love Bug moviefest (June 30); Rough ‘n’ Ready Western Week (July 4), Hard Ground with Burt Reynolds and Bruce Dern (July 12); Shogun with Richard Chamberlain (July 13). New Showdown at Sunup early morning block this summer. HBO Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now (June 28); Bill Maher: Victory Begins at Home (July 19). Sex and the City continues; Taxicab Confessions returns to New York this fall, when new series Carnivale (Sep. 14) begins. HGTV Specials include Restore America Honors (July 4), Historic Homes of Chicago (July 13), Top 10 Most Amazing Homes (Aug. 3), Back to School Design-a-thon (Aug. 15). HISTORY The History of the Beach (July 20), Failure Is Not an Option (Aug. 19). IFC Cinema for the Senses (July), A Decade Under the Influence documentary (Aug. 20); Pulp Indies continues Friday nights. I-LIFETV New summer shows Sportsweek and American News Network continue. INSPIRATION Original series and specials includes Gospel Music Southern Style and Christian Arists Talent Search. LA FAMILIA La Fiera and four other telenovelas this summer. LIFETIME New Saturday night dramas 1-800 Missing and Wild Card (Aug.). Original movies Going for Broke (July 14) and Defending Our Kids: The Julie Posey Story (July 21). Head 2 Toe (July 26) Designing Women Reunion (July 15). Sunday night dramas Strong Medicine and The Division continue. MTV Original shows this summer include the third season of The Osbournes, Tom Green’s new late night talk show, Spider-man animated series (July 11), MTV Bash (July 13) roast of Carson Daly by Madonna, Britney Spears and other celebs; and Chris Rock hosting the Video Music Awards (Aug. 28). MTV2 Taking its Sucker Free franchise to the streets this summer with the first-ever MTV2 Sucker Free Concert Series (July 5). MUN2 Off the Roof airs live from the West Coast Monday through Friday. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL Specials include Doctors Without Borders: Life in the Field (July 2), Dangerous Jobs (July 2), Need for Speed (July 2), Reptile Wild with Dr. Brady Barr (July 6), Taboo: Voodoo (July 7), Facing the Flames (July 9), Lost Subs: Disaster at Sea (July 16), Storm Shooter (July 30), Tuna Cowboys (Aug. 6). NICKELODEON Are You All That? Nick’s search for the funniest kid in America (July 26). New Nicktoon series My Life as a Teenage Robot (Aug. 1). Original movies based on hit series The Brothers Garcia, The Fairly OddParents, Rocket Power and As Told By Ginger premiere on Saturday nights through August. NOGGIN’S THE N DeGrassi: The Next Generation marathon (July 5-6) DeGrassi date rape special (July 11). The N adds five new shows this summer, including Radio Free Roscoe (Aug. 1) and Girls V. Boys (Aug. 8). OLN Outdoor Life Network has two new series this summer: Beach Ambush (Sundays) and Mysterious Encounters (Aug.) Exclusive U.S. TV home of the 2003 Tour de France (July 5-27), with live daily telecasts as Lance Armstrong competes for his fifth straight win. OUTDOOR CHANNEL Flag to Flag Race Coverage ARCA RE/Max Series (July 13). New series: Realtree Road Trips (July 3), LL Bean’s Outdoors (July 3), Guns and Ammo TV (July 4). OXYGEN All About Isaac Week (Aug. 4); Cont. shows include Girls Behaving Badly, Hey Monie, Can You Tell? PAX Movies include Terminal Error (July 4) and the 2003 Mrs. World Pageant (July 19). SCI FI Friday night original series include Tremors: The Series, Scare Tactics, Stargate SG-1. Original movies: Alien Hunter (July 12), Momentum (July 26), Deep Shock (Aug. 9) and Absolon (Aug. 23) plus July 4 and Labor Day movie marathons. SHOWTIME The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie movie (July 12); Free For All animated series (July 11); Street Time season 2 (Aug. 6), Searching for Debra Winger documentary (Aug. 18), Freshman Diaries (Aug. 31), Dead Like Me cont. SOAPNET Who’s Your Daddy? A Labor Day special featuring soap operas’ most questionable births. SPEED CHANNEL New lineup begins Aug. 4, bringing more auto enthusiast programming with a special one-hour prime-time block featuring shows such as Car Crazy and American Muscle Car. Wind Tunnel call-in show will also go live four nights a week with the change. STYLE New series: Style Court (Aug. 4), Clean House (mid-August); A Second Look and Modern Girl’s Guide to Life cont. SUNDANCE Bollywood Boulevard triple feature (July 18); Anatomy of a Scene: The Secret Lives of Dentists (July 20); new docs War and Peace (July 14) and Automatic Kalashnikov (July 21) on DOCday; new miniseries Keeping Time: New Music from American Roots (Aug. 7). News show 24 Frame News has a new format hosted by Jake Tapper. TBS Original movie Red Water (Aug. 17). Summer moviefest bookended by Mel Gibson marathon (July 4 weekend) and Martin Lawrence marathon (Labor Day weekend). TCM Films of 1939 tribute (July 3); Lee Marvin Mondays (July); fourth annual tribute to The Wizard of Oz (July 6); World Class Hypochondriacs theme (July 20). Summer Under the Stars theme throughout August celebrates a different Hollywood legend (such as Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn) each day. TECHTV Originals this summer include three new anime titles for late-night Anime Unleashed block and nine new docs for Secret, Strange and True weekly strand. Specials include T3 Special (July 6), 100 Years of Ford (July 13), Mobile Gaming (July 20), Security Alert: Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft, Viruses and Scams (Aug. 3) and High Tech Golf (Aug. 17). TENNIS CHANNEL Hall of Fame Tournament at Newport, R.I. (July 8), World Team Tennis (July 12), Fed Cup Quarterfinals (July 19), Mercedes-Benz Cup (July 29). Second original series0 (after No Strings) just launched: Center Court With Chris Myers on Sundays. TLC New series: Pros and Cons: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (July 5). Specials include Trading Spaces: Family (July 6), Hunt for Amazing Treasures (July 6), Ultimate 10: Speed Machines (July 30), The Body Sculptors: A History of Plastic Surgery (Aug. 4), King Arthur (Aug. 5), Trading Spaces on Campus (Aug. 9), Animal Imitators (Aug. 19), Junkyard Mega Wars (Aug. 27), What Not to Wear season 2 (Aug. 29). Continuing: Trading Spaces, While You Were Out. TNN It’s on with the show at the erstwhile Spike TV, with a new animation block The Strip featuring Gary the Rat, Stripperella and Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon. Other originals are Slamball (returns Aug. 4) and Ride With Funkmaster Flex (starts Aug. 16). Spy in July James Bond fest in July and Animal House 25th Anniversary special (Aug. 24). TNT Prince Charming original movie (July 13). NASCAR on TNT starts July 3 in Daytona; British Open (July 17), Senior British Open (July 24), Women’s British Open (July 31), PGA Championship (Aug 14).