USA Network Is Trying to Reach Millennials With More Dramas and More WWE

Expect sci-fi series, SmackDown and fewer scripted comedies

USA Network understands that audience demographics are changing. To further appeal to the mainstream, the NBCUniversal property is working on a new strategy to reach millennials.

USA announced Tuesday at its 2015 Upfront press breakfast in New York that it is banking heavily on dramas, starting this summer, and shying away from its traditional half-hour scripted comedies. The network is placing its biggest bet so far on hacker thriller Mr. Robot, which network executives described as "The Social Network meets Fight Club." Starring Rami Malek and Christian Slater, Mr. Robot—premiering June 24—won a 2015 SXSW audience award and is an official selection at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Other new shows include Burn Notice creator Mark Nix's new series Complications, a medical crime drama scheduled to debut on June 18. Viewers can also expect Colony, a sci-fi drama from Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Ryan Condal (Hercules) that takes place in an alien-occupied Los Angeles and stars Lost alum Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies from The Walking Dead.

USA said it will be developing at least 14 new shows later this year, including nine more original dramas. Mark Wahlberg will produce an hour-long series called Shooter, based on the Steven Hunter book Point of Impact and the Paramount Pictures film of the same name. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson also has an unscripted project in the works.

In addition, the network will expand its partnership with WWE through the rebooted WWE Tough Enough reality series, which debuts June 23, and SmackDown, which will move to USA Network in early 2016. The network will also continue its weekly, three-hour staple Monday Night Raw. Raw currently averages 4.43 million total viewers. In 2014, Raw and SmackDown reached 55.9 million total viewers. WWE also has 460 million social media followers, which both USA Network and WWE are hoping will draw advertisers. 

Further emphasizing its focus on millennials, the network is starting to experiment with different ad offerings that include digital programming and other non-traditional TV platforms. For the second season of comedy Playing House, it will let viewers see the next week's episode earlier through video-on-demand platforms. Brands will be able to buy advertising on the VOD offerings based on a total audience measurement and create custom content around the experience.