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Spike TV retools original strategy

Development slate will focus on comedy

One month before the debut of its big drama bet “The Kill Point,” Spike TV is retooling its original-series strategy.

The Viacom net will focus for its development slate as much on comedy as on drama, after a period in which the balance skewed more toward drama.

As part of that focus, net is developing “The Factory,” a comedy from Mitch Rouse, a co-creator of cult comedy series “Strangers With Candy.” Show is described as a sitcom in the vein of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in which actors will improvise off of an outline.

Rouse will star, write and direct; he will exec produce along with management and production shingle 3 Arts.

Net has yet to officially order the series but could be close to a greenlight.

Spike is developing several other sitcoms and has a number of comedies coming out of its reality division this year, including the barstool trivia game “Manswers” (Daily Variety, April 3).

Spike has pushed into original drama with last year’s actioner “Blade: The Series” and now the John Leguizamo bank heist show “The Kill Point,” which preems July 22.

But the cost of acquired programming is rising for the net; Spike has been the TV home for several skeins involving the increasingly popular mixed-martial arts league UFC and also bought the pricey “CSI: NY” for about $2 million an episode. It now may be looking for less expensive properties, such as comedy.

Net has also opted not to renew the contract of Pancho Mansfield, the exec veep of original programming and development and the net’s highest-ranking programming exec.

The position won’t be filled, sources said Wednesday, with Mansfield’s responsibilities instead falling to current programming execs Bill McGoldrick and Sharon Levy, who focus on scripted and alternative/reality, respectively.

MTVN Entertainment Group prexy Doug Herzog noted in a statement about Mansfield that “the network’s programming model continues to evolve, with potentially fewer scripted projects planned for 2008.”

Reps for the net later said that they didn’t expect a reduction in the overall number of scripted series on the air.

A Showtime vet, Mansfield has been with Spike since 2005. It’s unknown whether he will seek another network job; observers noted that it’s likely he could operate as a producer.

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