Cable branches into fall debuts

Nets no longer fear tangling with broadcasters

In their rise to original series prominence over the last decade, cable networks have cautiously avoided the fall months.

FX’s breakthrough original cop drama “The Shield,” for example, was launched in March 2002, while TNT’s ratings-record-breaking procedural “The Closer” bowed in June 2005.

Now that they’ve successfully saturated the relatively thin air of summer with original dramas and comedies, cablers are migrating to where the really big auds are: the colder, darker, more routine-driven days of fall.

While they’ve dabbled by bowing new seasons of established series in the fall frame, cablers are going head-to-head with broadcasters this year like never before.

This month offers the premieres of several high-profile scripted dramas on cable, including TNT’s Steven Bochco-produced legal drama, “Raising the Bar,” FX’s biker-themed “Sons of Anarchy” and Alan Ball’s vampiric “True Blood” for HBO. The series incarnation of USA’s “The Starter Wife” bows Oct. 10.

“A fall launch of a new drama series is a new thing for us,” concedes FX prexy and g.m. John Landgraf. “But viewers have become platform agnostic — they don’t care what network a show is on.”

September is also full of returning cable series making season premieres, including “The Shield,” USA’s “Monk,” HBO’s “Entourage” and Showtime’s “Dexter,” among others.