Three years after Bonnie Hammer rebranded USA Network as a home to character-driven series, the net reps one of NBC Universal’s biggest success stories.
USA was the most-watched basic cable network for the second year in a row in 2007, while Sci Fi — which she’s overseen since 2001 — was sixth.
“USA has surely come of age at this point,” Hammer says. “We’ve had a lot of luck on our side. We’ve had a hit every summer since we created this brand. ‘Monk’ was already here, but on its heels we did ‘Psych,’ ‘Burn Notice,’ ‘The Starter Wife,’ and we inherited ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent.’ We know what we’re looking for, and it’s caught on like wildfire.”
Sci Fi, meanwhile, has seen its numbers grow as the channel showcased critic faves like “Battlestar Galactica” but also evolved beyond the genre to become more a network about imagination, Hammer says.
That’s why it wasn’t much of a surprise that NBC U made it a priority this year to keep Hammer at the Peacock. In March, the exec signed a new contract that kept her firmly in charge of the two nets, plus new oversight of NBC U’s cable programming.
The exec says the structure should allow the studio to put new projects through the USA and Sci Fi “brand filter” even earlier in the process.
“I’m very fortunate, it’s a real lucky position to be in — I get to maintain some status quo with the team I adore, while also adopt a new toy that fits really well into our team structure,” Hammer says.
As NBC Universal president of cable entertainment and cable studio, Hammer was also handed oversight of NBC U’s emerging cable network group — such channels as Chiller, Sleuth and Universal HD.
Next up, Hammer is working on Sci Fi’s international growth. The channel expects to be in 27 territories by next year.
As for USA, the challenge is defending its position atop the ratings heap.
“The hardest thing about being No. 1 is staying No. 1,” she says. “People already call us the fifth broadcast channel. It’s about how do you motivate and challenge the team to keep moving forward.”
Role model: “My dad. He taught me that there’s no such word as ‘can’t.’ ”
What I’m reading now: “Besides scripts, anything about the presidential race I can get my hands on. It’s completely taken over my summer reading.”
Career mantra: “Never settle. Never be complacent.”