CBS eyes "Dexter" for edited broadcast

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - As the Hollywood writers strike enters its second month with no end in sight, recycling cable series on broadcast networks is becoming a reality.

CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves said that CBS is planning to run some series that air on its Showtime cable unit, including the breakout hit “Dexter.”

“‘Dexter’ is probably the first one to go on -- with some edits,” Moonves told reporters at UBS’ Global Media & Communications Conference in New York. “It fits with our crime shows.”

The edgy, offbeat “Dexter,” which has become a critical and ratings success for Showtime, stars Michael C. Hall as a Miami police forensics expert who moonlights as a vigilante serial killer.

CBS, of course, is the leader in the forensic crime drama genre with the “CSI” franchise.

Moonves didn’t specify when “Dexter” would launch on CBS beyond saying it should come “in the near future.”

Now in its second season on Showtime, “Dexter” has broken ratings records for the premium cable network. Its November 18 episode ranked as the most-watched in Showtime history.

In addition to “Dexter,” CBS also is considering Showtime’s racy period drama “The Tudors,” which originally was developed for CBS, and the critically praised dark comedy “Weeds,” about a marijuana-peddling soccer mom. However, both will need heavy editing to make it to broadcast primetime.

CBS chief research officer David Poltrack said after Moonves’ presentation at the conference that it was hard to forecast how well Showtime’s programming would do on the broadcast network, particularly because of what would have to be edited. He noted that Showtime’s programming of “Dexter” and “Weeds” generally rated high or higher than broadcast fare in CBS Corp.’s testing of viewer satisfaction.

“There’s no reason why that wouldn’t translate” from pay cable to broadcast, Poltrack said.

With their scripted series running out of original episodes, the broadcast networks have been exploring the idea of recycling series from their sister cable networks as a strike contingency.

NBC has been rumored to be looking at a potential second window on the network for such series as USA’s “Monk” and “Psych” and Sci Fi’s “Battlestar Galactica.” This week, NBC exercised its option to recycle “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” which had moved from the broadcast network to USA in the fall.

According to sources, Fox and ABC, which are considered the least vulnerable in case of a long strike because of their strong reality slates led by their respective blockbuster hits “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars,” have not yet seriously considered borrowing fare from such corporate siblings as FX, ABC Family and Lifetime.

Although almost all long-running broadcast series run in cable syndication, the leaps in the other direction are still rare.

ABC has been the most active, rerunning “Monk” in 2002 and the first season of ABC Family’s “Kyle XY” in 2006.

The talks with Showtime are part of CBS’ aggressive strategy to prepare for a long writers walkout. On Monday, the network announced a strike-impacted midseason schedule that includes three hours a week of “Big Brother,” as well as fresh episodes of reality veteran “Survivor,” the quiz show “Power of 10,” and procedural crime drama reruns.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter