WGN America continues original programming with two new projects

WGN America continues original programming with two new projects
Janet Montgomery, left, and Ashley Madekwe star in WGN America's first scripted series, "Salem." (WGN America / WGN America)

WGN America continues its push in the original programming arena, announcing Wednesday that it has given a straight-to-series order to Appalachia-set drama "Titans" and has begun initial stages on series contender "Underground."

The Tribune-owned network gave a straight-to-series order to scripted drama "Titans." The hourlong drama, created by playwright Peter Mattei, sets its sights on the hills of Appalachia and tells the story of a family of outsiders living in a mountaintop abode who will "protect their world and defend their way of life using any means necessary," according to WGN America's description.

WGN America has ordered 13 episodes of the drama.

Meanwhile, the start of preproduction and the writers' room is underway on the slave drama "Underground"--with "an eye toward a series order," according to the network.

The drama, created and written by Misha Green ("Sons of Anarchy," Heroes") and Joe Pokaski ("Heroes," "CSI), tells the story the slaves living in the pre-Civil War South who embarked on the Underground Railroad, the secret network of men and women who risked death to help them, and those tasked with capturing them.

Both series will be produced by Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios for an expected 2015 rollout.

"These projects, each exploring a world we find to be unique and fascinating, continue our aggressive expansion into original scripted programming," said Matt Cherniss, president and general manager, WGN America and Tribune Studios, in a statement.

The Chicago-based network, long a source for sitcom reruns and Chicago Cubs baseball games, set off its push to reposition itself as a full-fledged cable network with the launch of original programming earlier this year, starting with the premiere of witch drama "Salem."

For a network unaccustomed to ratings with real heft, the drama opened to a solid start--its premiere drew 1.5 million total viewers and 647,000 in the 18-49 demographic (numbers that saw a significant bump when DVR viewings over seven days were factored in)--and was picked up for a second season.

And earlier this summer, the network launched atomic bomb drama "Manhattan"--though, to a slightly smaller crowd than its predecessor. The drama opened to 904,000 total viewers and 233,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo. Still an upgrade from what had been the norm on the network.

News of its programming additions comes a week after Tribune Media Co., the former parent company of the Los Angeles Times, reported its earnings in its last full quarter in which it combined results of its entertainment and publishing divisions. The media company's expenses reflected its push to becoming a profitable TV-centric operation, with programming for WGN America increasing expenses in the second quarter by $24.5 million.

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