Strike Upside: Network TV Gets More Like Cable

With its dual revenue streams (advertising and subscriptions) media execs love the cable business; NBC U’s cable nets account 50% of the company’s profits, according to CEO Jeff Zucker.

Now, with the writer’s strike in its seventh week, and the well drying up on new episodes of original series, network execs are finding another reason to love cable: its a ready font of retread shows to slot in on the network.

NBC’s strike-mandated, post-football strategy for Sunday nights: repurpose USA Network shows “Monk” and “Psych” for the network. Both shows, it so happens, are owned and produced by Universal’s own studio. On cable, they draw a little over 2 million viewers, which would be a big disappointment on the network, but given the broadcast network’s bigger reach, they’ll certainly do better on NBC. And if not? Hey — they’re already paid for.

NBC is also repurposing USA’s crime drama “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” also produced by Universal , as well as the MySpace series “Quarterlife” to fill holes in the schedule, a challenge for its newbie programming chief Ben Silverman. Like NBC, CBS is also tapping cable for content, but Showtime has fewer network-compatible options. Repurposing the gory “Dexter” is doable, in a world of gory “CSI” and “Law & Order” episodes; “Californication,” however, is probably a non-starter.

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