USA Network is one of the top cable channels in the country, airing a mix of scripted, reality and sports programming. Though not always so respected, the channel’s re-branding under the slogan “Characters Welcome” and the addition of shows like Monk, Psych and White Collar, have earned them a place among the most watched cable channels. Their popularity continues today as the network continues to focus on the quality of their programming. Here are nine facts about USA Network, its history and its shows.
Number Nine: USA Network was One of the First Cable Channels to Broadcast Via Satellite
When cable was first becoming an option, stations were broadcasting using a microwave system, which transmits radio signals between two antennas. However, during the 1960s, the first communications satellites were launched, leaving stations with a cheaper alternative to microwaves. USA Network was one of the first stations to take advantage of this technology to broadcast their programing.
Number Eight: It Started as a Sports Channel
Although the channel is now known for its scripted dramas and comedies, when the channel first started broadcasting in 1977, it showed college and professional sports. The channel ended this programing in the mid-1980s, instead focusing more on gameshows and old movies, and eventually adding in more scripted series. Today, USA Network airs sports on a more limited basis, continuing to show WWE programs Raw and SmackDown, as well as overflow from NBC’s sports affiliates, primarily soccer, hockey and NASCAR.
Number Seven: They Had the First Series to Go from Broadcast to Cable
In 1985, NBC produced a remake of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, only to cancel it before the second season. However, USA Network brought the series over from the broadcast network, which is USA’s parent company, producing it for three more seasons. This was the first time a television program was brought over from a broadcast network to a cable network while new episodes were still being made.
Number Six: ‘House’ Is Their Highest Rated Program Ever
USA Network has had a lot of hit drama series, including Monk, Psych and White Collar, but their highest rated series ever was not even their own show. In 2006, the network started showing reruns of FOX’s House. After three years of airing the show, it became the network’s highest rated series, a distinction the show still holds to this day.
Number Five: They Had the First Female President in Television History
Kay Koplovitz started USA Network (as Madison Square Garden Sports) in 1977, making her the first female network president in television history. She worked with the station for more than 22 years, seeing it to its number one position among cable channels in prime time and keeping it there for 13 years.
Number Four: USA Network Honors Influential Citizens
While most networks that have award shows celebrate celebrities, USA Network honors citizens who are making a difference. In 2012, the network started the Characters Unite initiative to address issues of social injustice in the world. As part of the program, viewers are able to nominate people they think deserve to be recognized for their efforts, at which point the program chooses 10 to honor with grants and the opportunity to be featured in a PSA directly on the network.
Number Three: They Had the Most Watched Scripted Cable Drama in History
From 2009 until 2012, USA Network held the record for the “most-watched scripted drama episode” with the series finale of Monk. The final episode brought in 9.44 million viewers, more than doubling the show’s premiere rating. In 2013, this record was broken by AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Number Two: It Was Renamed After the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team
Network founder Kay Koplovitz has related in interviews that she changed the name to reflect what people chant when the U.S. wins athletic games. Though not directly named after the event, as she had planned the change before it and hadn’t made the announcement official yet, she said that her idea was confirmed when she saw the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s miraculous win and everyone in the restaurant she was in shouting “U.S.A!”
Number One: Some of Their Series Have Had Novels Based on Their Characters
I don’t mean this in the same way that movies or TV shows are based off of books. A number of the USA Network series have novels that were written as extensions of the storyline. This was especially true for Monk, which has had 19 titles published about the characters, and Psych, which has six titles published. Royal Pains also has two novels based off of its characters. Thank you for reading our list of 9 interesting facts about USA Network. We hope you enjoyed it!