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Cable vies with broadcast nets for attention

Fall shows set to compete for audience share

September and October have traditionally been periods when cable networks refrain from launching new series, preferring to let fledgling broadcast shows cannibalize each other. Still, a handful of cablers are finding fall premieres have advantages.

“We’ve had a great summer … (and) it’s in everyone’s best interest to have a 52-week schedule to maintain momentum,” says Syfy president Dave Howe, who launches “Stargate Universe” on Oct. 2, the first of three basic cable scripted shows premiering in early October (followed by Lifetime’s “Sherri” on Oct. 5 and Comedy Central’s “Secret Girlfriend” on Oct. 7).

“Habitual viewership makes it easier to kickstart new shows. If your airwaves are buoyant, you spend less money off-air telling people what’s coming.”

“Sherri” debuts on Lifetime six days before the finale of the network’s summer hit, “Drop Dead Diva.”

“You need to be competitive year-round,” says Lifetime exec veep JoAnn Alfano. “Being alive during summer with robust original programs allows us to enter fall with much more circulation in our network.”

While cablers enjoy summer’s promotional boosts, many employ different scheduling strategies. Syfy programs its new scripted shows on Fridays, which proved successful with 2008’s “Sanctuary.” Lifetime will use another approach for “Sherri.”

“We’re stripping it across the week (at 7 p.m.) in the first week, giving audiences an opportunity to get a toehold,” Alfano says. “Then the show moves to Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Network television airs comedies (only) between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., so we felt there was an opportunity, especially with female audiences.”

Premium cable’s only new fall series, HBO’s “Bored to Death,” nabs “True Blood’s” timeslot Sunday , one week after the season finale of “Blood.”

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