|Launched||September 8, 1971
(original launch; as Madison Square Garden Network)
January 3, 1979
(relaunch; as USA Network)
|Owned by||USA Networks, Inc.
(Universal Television Networks, LLC)
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV/16:9 letterbox)
New York, United States
|Formerly called||Madison Square Garden Network (1971–1979)|
|Website||Watch USA Network Stream Online|
|Dish Network||105 (HD/SD)
|C band||Galaxy 14-Channel 19|
|Verizon FiOS||550 (HD)
|Available on most other U.S. cable systems||Consult your local cable provider for channel availability|
|AT&T U-verse||1124 (HD)
|Google Fiber||Check local listings for channels|
USA Network (commonly referred to as simply "USA") is an American basic cable and satellite channel that is owned by the NBCUniversal Cable division of Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal. Once a minor player in basic cable, the network has steadily gained popularity due to its original programming; USA also broadcasts syndicated reruns of current and former "network television" (i.e., non-cable) series and theatrically-released feature films, as well as limited sports programming.
As of August 2013, USA is available to approximately 98,647,000 pay television households (86.38% of households with television) in the United States.
USA Network originally launched on September 8, 1971 as the Madison Square Garden Network (not to be confused with the New York City regional sports network of the same name). The channel became one of the first national cable television channels in the late 1970s, when it chose to use satellite delivery as opposed to microwave relay to cable systems. Initially, the network ran a mix of college and less well-known professional sports similar to ESPN. The channel began its broadcast day after 5 p.m. ET on weekdays and 12 p.m. ET on weekends.
On January 3, 1979, the channel changed its name to USA Network after the ownership structure was reorganized under a joint operating agreement by cable provider UA-Columbia Cablevision and the then-MCA Inc./Universal City Studios. That fall, USA began signing on at 12 p.m. ET on weekdays and began to run some talk shows and a children's program called Calliope. Sports programming began airing at 5 p.m. ET weekdays, and all day on weekends. In the fall of 1981, USA began its daily programming at 6 a.m. ET, with talk shows and children's programs until 12 p.m., sports from 12 p.m. onward during weekends and until 3 p.m. weekdays, talk shows from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays, and sports again after 6 p.m. ET.
Later, in 1982, Time Inc. (which would go on to merge with Warner Communications to become Time Warner) and Gulf+Western's Paramount Pictures unit (now part of Viacom) would buy stakes in the venture. MCA/Universal and Paramount would become the sole owners in 1987 (each owning 50%). In the fall of 1982, USA began operating on a 24-hour-a-day schedule, running a mix of talk shows, a children's program, and a low-budget movie from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. The channel began running a mix of 1960s and 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons weekday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. known as the USA Cartoon Express, and sports programming after 7 p.m., which were rebroadcast during the overnight hours. Weekends had a mix of movies, some older drama series and talk shows during the morning hours, and sports in the afternoons and evenings. Overnights consisted of old low-budget films and film shorts, and music as part of a show called Night Flight.
Short news updates, branded as USA Updates, were shown from as early as 1989 until 2000. These segments were first produced out of KYW-TV in Philadelphia, owing to the fact that the station already produced a number of syndicated news services (including the Group W Newsfeed) and Steve Bell, the former newsreader on Good Morning America, was a primary anchor at the station. However, when KYW's news operations were heavily modified in response to falling ratings in 1991, this resulted in the production of USA Updates being taken over by the All News Channel (operated by Hubbard Broadcasting and Viacom's joint venture, CONUS Communications). These continued through 2000 (ANC was suffering heavily from competition and ended up shutting down in 2002), and the network no longer carries any news programming.
From 1984 to 1986, USA began moving away from sports programming and began focusing on general entertainment programming not found on broadcast stations including some less common network drama series and cartoons. One tradition was an afternoon lineup of game show reruns mixed in with several original low-budget productions that aired over the years. It began in October 1984 with reruns of The Gong Show and Make Me Laugh. In September 1985, the network began airing a revival of the mid-1970s game show Jackpot, and another original show was added in September 1986: Love Me, Love Me Not. More shows were progressively added soon after such as The Joker's Wild, Tic-Tac-Dough, Press Your Luck, High Rollers, and Hollywood Squares with John Davidson, along with Wipeout, Face the Music and Name That Tune. Another original game show was added in June 1987, called Bumper Stumpers. When it began, the game show block ran for an hour, but expanded significantly the following year. By 1989, the network ran game shows from 12 to 5 p.m. five days a week.
The tradition of game show reruns continued into the 1990s with the $25,000 and $100,000 Pyramids, the early 1990s revivals of The Joker's Wild and Tic-Tac-Dough plus other well-known shows such as Scrabble, Sale of the Century, Talk About and Caesars Challenge. Additionally, two more original shows were added in June 1994: Free 4 All and Quicksilver. The block was decreased in September 1991 to only three hours, from 2 to 5 p.m. However, another hour was added in March 1993. In November 1994, it was cut back to only two hours, from 2 to 4 p.m. On September 24, 1992, USA launched a sister network, the Sci Fi Channel, which in July 2009 was renamed Syfy.
In October 1995, the network dropped the entire game show block; it was replaced with a block called USA Live, which carried reruns of Love Connection and The People's Court, with live hosted wraparound segments between shows, that block was dropped by 1997. Some of the game shows that USA broadcast can still be seen on GSN. In 1994, USA began to run an early morning simulcast of upstart business news and information channel Bloomberg Information TV weekdays from 5-8 a.m. ET/PT (and later 5-6 a.m. ET/PT on Saturdays); that simulcast moved to E!, where it ran from 2004 to 2007. USA was actually the second television network to simulcast Bloomberg's programming, the now-defunct American Independent Network carried a simulcast of the channel during the mid-1990s.
In 1996, the network redid its on-air appearance, with a new logo (incorporating a star), and a three-note jingle. The look focused on a behind-the-scenes look at the fictional "USA Studios". Some idents showed people in the control room, while a studio being set-up was the backdrop for the "Tonight" menu. The movie open showed people running through the "USA Studios Film Vault". The new look coincided with a shift in focus, more towards off-network reruns and original product; the game shows and court shows were dropped, while the cartoons were phased out.
In 1997, three years after the Paramount/Viacom merger, that company sold its stake in the networks to Universal (which, along with parent MCA, changed ownership twice earlier in the 1990s: to Matsushita in 1991, and then Seagrams in 1995, the latter company making Universal Studios the corporate name of its media division in 1997). Seagrams/Universal subsequently sold the networks to Barry Diller. In exchange, Seagram acquired a 45% stake in Diller's HSN conglomerate, creating USA Networks, Inc.
In September 1998, USA dropped the USA Action Extreme Team (which previously had been the USA Cartoon Express for 16 years) and has not rerun children's animated series since that time. USA replaced it with a block called "USAM", which advertised itself as "Primetime Comedy in the Morning"; this block mostly included network sitcoms that were cancelled before making it to 100 episodes (such as The Jeff Foxworthy Show, Hearts Afire and Something So Right) and for a time, also included the 1989–1994 episodes of the Bob Saget run of America's Funniest Home Videos. The USAM block was dropped from the channel in 2001.
In 2000, USA Networks bought Canadian media company North American Television, Inc. (a joint partnership between the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Power Corporation of Canada), owner of cable television channels Trio and Newsworld International (the CBC continued to program NWI until 2005, when eventual USA owner Vivendi sold the channel to a group led by Al Gore, who relaunched it as Current TV).
In 2001, USA Networks sold its non-shopping television and film assets (including the USA Network, the Sci Fi Channel, the Trio channel, USA Films (which was rechristened as Focus Features) and Studios USA) to Vivendi Universal. USA and the other channels were folded into Vivendi's Universal Television Group. The comedy-drama police procedural Monk made its debut in 2002 and became one of USA Network's first breakout hit series, it ran for eight seasons until it ended on December 4, 2009.
In 2003, General Electric's NBC agreed to acquire an 80% ownership interest in Vivendi Universal's North American-based filmed entertainment assets, including Universal Pictures and Universal Television Group in a multi-billion dollar purchase, renaming the merged company NBC Universal. NBC Universal officially took over as owner of USA and its sibling cable channels (except for Newsworld International, as stated above) in 2004. That year, USA premiered the sci-fi series The 4400.
In 2006, USA premiered Psych, which as of 2013, is currently the channel's longest running original series. NBC Universal announced before NBC released its 2007–08 fall schedule on May 13, 2007 that Law & Order: Criminal Intent would be renewed for a seventh season. However, the new episodes of the series moved to USA beginning in the fall of 2007, with episodes repeating later in the season on NBC, most likely to shore up any programming holes created by a failed series. Although this is not the first time a broadcast series has moved to cable (in 1983, CBS's The Paper Chase moved to Showtime, and in 1987, NBC's revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents moved to USA Network), it is a first in that a series which moved to cable will continue to show episodes on a broadcast network while still a first-run program. On December 7, 2007, it was announced that USA Network would continue broadcasting first-run episodes of WWE Raw until 2010. The USA original series Burn Notice also made its debut in 2007.
In 2008, USA announced a new original series In Plain Sight, starring Mary McCormack, focusing on a United States Marshal working for the Witness Protection Program. The series debuted June 1, 2008, becoming USA's highest-rated series premiere since the 2006 debut of Psych, with 5.3 million viewers.
In early 2009, USA Network acquired the network television rights for 24 recent and upcoming Universal Pictures films for $200 million. Among the films included in the deal were Milk, Frost/Nixon, Duplicity, State of Play, Land of the Lost and Funny People. As of January 18, 2009 House was the highest-rated drama on USA Network (to this day) surpassing both Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, along with In Plain Sight, Monk and NCIS.
In 2010, USA Network, which had been airing its original series on Friday and Sunday evenings for several years, began to move its original series deeper into weeknights. After the 2009–10 season break, Burn Notice resumed airing the remainder of its third season on Thursdays in the Spring of 2010; the second half of White Collar's first season moved to Tuesdays, while longtime Friday night series Psych moved to Wednesdays.
USA Network has achieved a viewership foothold with its original programming, this began in the 1990s with initial hits such as Silk Stalkings and La Femme Nikita, which were gradually followed in the following two decades by series such as Monk, Psych, White Collar, Suits, Burn Notice and Royal Pains. Most of its original series are scripted drama series, some of which incorporate comedic elements, however USA has announced its expansion into comedy series beginning in 2013. In addition to its original productions, the network airs syndicated reruns of current and former network series such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent (which spent the final four seasons of its run as a first-run program on USA) and NCIS. The network also broadcasts a variety of films from the Universal Studios library and select films from other movie studios (such as Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment), airing primarily as part of USA Network's weekend schedule.
USA Network has a longstanding history with sports, dating back to its existence as the Madison Square Garden Network. The network is the longtime home of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and was the longtime cable home of tennis's US Open, which moved to ESPN2 and the Tennis Channel in 2009. Since 2004, the network has broadcast select events of the Olympic Games, which are shared with other NBCUniversal-owned basic cable channels. It previously broadcast a weekly boxing show named USA Tuesday Night Fights, which ran for 17 years. USA is also the home of World Wrestling Entertainment's (then called the World Wrestling Federation) flagship cable television show WWE Raw from its debut in January 1993 until September 2000, and currently since October 2005.
Each April from 1982 to 2007, USA broadcast the opening two rounds of the Masters Tournament, along with high-definition coverage on Universal HD towards the end of its tenure with the network; the coverage moved to ESPN in 2008. USA also carried Major League Baseball games on Thursday nights from 1979 to 1983. USA Network also took part in broadcasting IIHF ice hockey in 2006 and 2010. Upon the 2004 purchase of Vivendi Universal by NBC, USA's sports division was immediately merged into NBC Sports.
In February 2007, Shaw Communications submitted an application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), to bring the USA Network to Canada (and to automatically allow all English-language general interest cable networks from the USA into Canada). However, because of programming rights issues in Canada, certain programs would be subjected to blackout, including WWE Raw. In September 2007, the commission refused Shaw Communications' request to carry USA Network into Canada because it had too much programming that overlapped with Mystery TV. Mystery TV is an English language digital cable specialty channel that is owned by Shaw Media and Groupe TVA. However, on September 20, 2007, the CRTC did say they would reconsider their denial of USA Network, when Shaw Communications instead offered to carry USA Network on their digital cable packages, at a future date. However, this has since been rejected again because its programming would make the channel compete with Mystery TV.
Countries in Latin America such as Argentina and Brazil previously had their own regional versions of USA Network, but in September 2004, most of these services were renamed Universal Channel to take advantage of the more well-known brand and reduce the awkwardness of a channel branded with the initials of another nation.
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