‘Dead Zone’ alive on USA

Cabler eager to ink 13 new episodes of costly skein

NEW YORK — The USA Network has renewed its hit new series “The Dead Zone” for a second season.

USA will pay a strapping license fee of $950,000 or so an episode, a figure that will still leave a deficit of half a mil because the production cost of each hour comes to about $1.45 million, making it one of the most expensive shows on basic cable.

But Paramount TV Distribution, which owns the international syndication rights to “Dead Zone,” has already grossed more than that $500,000 per episode from foreign sales.

USA is still negotiating the exact number of episodes for the renewal with “Dead Zone” producer Lions Gate, which owns the North American rights to the series.

The network is eager to commission 13 new segs on top of the existing 13. Lions Gate wants to do even more, seeking to secure a deal for as many as 26 new ones. The production company’s argument is that 26 fresh hours would help USA avoid the syndrome of declining viewer interest triggered by a long time lapse between original episodes. Because these discussions are still taking place, the parties declined to comment on the renewal.

USA already has included a clause in the contract that gives it first refusal on the reruns of “Dead Zone” if the program’s success stretches to 88 episodes or more.

The Nielsen ratings provide ample reason for optimism that “Dead Zone” will have staying power. For the first four weeks in its Sunday at 10 time period, “Dead Zone” is averaging a gaudy 3.6 rating in cable homes, which translates into 4.8 million viewers. Show delivers a 2.9 rating in adults 25-54, the audience USA targets, and a 2.7 in adults 18-49.

“Dead Zone” harvested a 4.7 rating in cable homes for its June 16 premiere, the highest rating for the debut of a scripted series in the history of basic cable.

Further, the beauty of “Dead Zone” for USA is that reruns of the show will fit the program strategy of the Sci Fi Channel, USA’s sister net. Sci Fi has already begun repeating each “Dead Zone” episode Friday night at 8.

The executive producers of “Dead Zone” are Michael Piller, Lloyd Segan and Robert Lieberman. Skein stars Anthony Michael Hall and David Ogden Stiers.

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