Channel 5 Pushes Forward With 5USA 9pm Strategy

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Chicago PD S3 (FT)

Channel 5 is moving forward with the 9pm strategy for digital channel 5USA.

Said strategy calls for 5USA to air new and exclusive dramas on weekdays in the 9pm time-slot and officially got underway last year with the acquisition of Chicago Fire spin-off Chicago PD and has since continued with the pick up of NBC’s Debra Messing fronted procedural The Mysteries Of Laura.

The strategy was born out of the decision to shift exclusive dramas on the main FTA channel to the 10pm slot, presenting an opportunity for 5USA to launch new drama at 9pm. Equally important to this new programming strategy was the clearer brands that emerged following the Viacom acquisition of Channel 5.

Under Northern & Shell ownership, a frequent criticism of 5* and 5USA was that they lacked a clear identity or brand proposition. Back then both channels aired an eclectic mix of dramas including Parenthood, Helix, Sons Of Anarchy, Californication and Justified. Now, however, both have much clearer identities, with 5* being home to younger-skewing shows, while 5USA is home to the best US crime dramas, especially procedurals.

5USA has benefited greatly from that clearer identity and far more honed approach to acquisitions, with the 9pm strategy already showing dividends. Chicago PD is a strong ratings performer and in a rare feat, The Mysteries Of Laura grew its audience every week it was on the air, averaging more than half a million viewers across its 22 episode first season. Those successes have also seen 5USA grow its audience by 6% in peak, while the 9pm slot is up 14% year-on-year.

Given that, Channel 5 is keen to push ahead with the 9pm strategy for 5USA and they have already acquired the third season of Chicago P.D. and the second season of The Mysteries Of Laura. There are also plans afoot to “boost” the output on 5USA, with the hopes that eventually there will be a new U.S. drama in the 9pm slot every day of the week (Mon-Fri). There are similar plans to greatly increase the number of exclusive US dramas on 5*, something which has already gotten underway with the recent deal for Herores Reborn.

Undoubtedly, given 5USA’s focus on crime dramas and procedurals, which is the kind of content that has typically played on Channel 5, there may be some overlap. Although Channel 5 is very much focussed on “noisy, highly promotable” shows, exemplified by the likes of Gotham, they don’t want to alienate their “heartland audience” and so are still in the market for procedurals such as NCIS: New Orleans and CSI: Cyber. In those cases, where a procedural is up for grabs and the main channel needs one for their schedule, the first window will go to Channel 5 but 5USA will still get a bite at the apple, so to speak.

“When we’re talking about procedurals, obviously we will share content and if Channel 5 has the need for an acquired procedural [5USA] will get the narrative repeat”, Marie-Claire Dunlop, Channel 5’s Acquisitions and Channel Manager told TVWise. “It’s a great opportunity for a channel like 5USA when the mothership still invests in procedurals in that way, because that is something that we are still reliant on.

“Last year we did implement the new 9pm strategy, so we are now buying exclusive content for the channel”, she added. “The first was Chicago P.D. and that was followed by The Mysteries Of Laura and we will continue to buy exclusive shows, but we are still very reliant on Channel 5 also picking up these procedurals too”.