'Dinotopia' moved to Nov. to make room for skein

ABC has made a last-minute addition to its fall lineup: The hit USA Network drama “Monk.”

Following a successful summer experiment, Alphabet will make repeats of “Monk” a regular part of the net’s sked for two months, starting Sept. 26. Skein will air Thursdays at 8 p.m.– opposite “Friends” and “Survivor”– as a lead-in to ABC’s much-hyped reality/drama hybrid “Push, Nevada.”

To make room for “Monk,” the premiere of the Hallmark Television-produced family hour “Dinotopia,” which had been set to air Thursdays at 8 p.m., has been pushed back to Thanksgiving night (Nov. 28.) Move will likely come as a relief to Hallmark, which had been struggling to complete complicated special effects for “Dinotopia” in time for the skein’s Oct. 10 debut.

ABC will pay just shy of $300,000 for 8 more episodes of “Monk”; net will also air the skein’s two-hour pilot in October as part of the pact.

News of ABC’s pickup was reported Saturday on Variety.com.

Following “Monk’s” successful bow on USA, ABC execs approached the cabler about repurposing the skein, which stars Tony Shalhoub, on ABC over four weeks in August. Alphabet execs were encouraged by the skein’s solid perf in a Tuesday at 9 p.m. slot despite very little advance promotion and monster competish from Fox’s red-hot “American Idol.”

“It’s been great for us and it’s been great for USA,” said ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne of “Monk’s” initial run.

As for the decision to extend the repeats to the regular season, Lyne said the move gives ABC fresh programming for a very difficult timeslot, while also allowing “Dinotopia” a smoother launch.

“It gives us a chance to premiere ‘Dinotopia’ in a less competitive environment,” she said, adding that with Hallmark’s rush to finish episodes of the series, the timing was “serendipity.”

Touchstone Television originally produced “Monk” for ABC, but the network passed; however, as part of a deal selling the show to USA, ABC included a clause allowing the skein to have a second window on ABC.

There’s been industry buzz in recent weeks that Disney topper Michael Eisner might ask old pal Barry Diller to give ABC first crack at the second season of “Monk,” with the skein airing first on ABC then on Diller’s USA Network.

ABC insiders dismiss such an idea, saying the skein is too important an asset to USA, which is trying to build a new identity under topper Doug Herzog. Other industry execs, however, believe Eisner might be able to convince Diller that the backend profits for “Monk” could be much bigger if the skein snagged first-run exposure on ABC.

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