Five months into his stint as CEO of Turner Broadcasting System, John Martin is focusing on maximizing performance and trimming fat. In a company memo sent out today (read it below), Martin outlines a global initiative called Turner 2020. It will feature a systematic assessment of every part of the company, focusing on “reducing spending and maximizing growth and profitability,” while prioritizing “programming, monetization and innovation investment,” Martin wrote. “We’re increasing investments in programming and content to keep our audiences engaged and bring new viewers to our brands. We’ll also spend on marketing, branding and promotion to break through the clutter.” Martin’s boss, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, told investors last week that he has budgeted $4B for original programming at Turner, with a goal to refresh the lineups more regularly. However, the “shifting (of) resources” … “may mean staff changes,” Martin said. “In fact, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t.”
Turner already has a major staffing change in the works, with Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin recently exiting the company. Outgoing Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly has been rumored as a potential replacement. Martin’s memo, in which he acknowledged that “we have challenges at some of our networks; in particular, some of our largest, most profitable and highest-profile networks have experienced ratings headwinds,” came out on the day the Friday ratings for Turner’s CNN network came out, marking the net’s lowest rating at 10 PM in 14 years. A month ago, Bewkes singled out TNT and TruTV as networks whose ratings performance was not satisfying. Back then and last week, he was optimistic about TNT’s new focus on edgier, serialized dramas and broader shows in the hope that they will win over younger viewers. He also added that he’s optimistic about recent and upcoming changes in CNN’s schedule. Read More »
Time Warner’s cable networks operation says that beginning this summer it will offer “complete current and previous seasons” of some of its original shows on a VOD basis to Comcast‘s Xfinity TV and digital platforms. The key to the deal: The cable company will offer dynamic ad insertion, which enables it and Turner to update and target commercial messages to particular viewers — a big selling point for networks in this upfront sales season. Fast forwarding will be disabled for most of the content, so viewers can’t speed through the ads.
“As viewing habits evolve, we continue to advance our advertiser offerings with stronger, more targeted products,” Turner Broadcasting Ad Sales President Donna Speciale says. “Through dynamic ad insertion, we now have a new source to swiftly integrate advertising creative in a highly sought after environment.” Read More »
Coleman Breland has been named president of Turner Network Sales (TNS) it was announced today by David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Breland is based in Atlanta and reports to Levy. Additionally, Richard Warren has been promoted to executive vice president of negotiations & strategy and associate general counsel, and Jennifer Mirgorod has been elevated to executive vice president of brand distribution, both reporting to Breland.
It’s been a long time since product placements were seen as an embarrassment, a practice that regretfully blurred the line between a program and its ads. Now companies brag about these deals — as Turner Broadcasting and Starcom do today with what they call “a first-of-its-kind, year-long marketing and research partnership developed for the 2013-14 Upfront.” Turner says that up through September 2014 it will boost “organic brand integrations” for Starcom clients in original shows for TBS, TNT, Adult Swim, and truTV. They’ll give writers and producers “access to Starcom’s portfolio of leading brands, spanning such categories as technology, quick-service restaurants, consumer packaged goods, retail and more” so they can “incorporate the brands within shows where the brand integration makes sense.” The partners say that they’ll conduct an “extensive, customized research study” that will look at the effectiveness of “active, passive and incidental integrations.” Turner hopes to “create stronger brand integrations, but also to increase our understanding of which type of integrations work best within an entertainment environment,” says Donna Speciale, president of Turner Entertainment and Young Adults Ad Sales. And Starcom’s Amanda Richman, president of investment and activation, says the deal “truly brings science to the art of brand integration, empowering our clients to grow their commitment to content that works.”
UPDATED, 8:05 PM:CableOne and Turner Broadcasting have made nice after a dark October for the latter’s channels on The Washington Post’s cable operation. CableOne said in a release that “the process of restoring the Turner channels will begin immediately and may take several days to complete.” Here is Turner’s statement on tonight’s agreement: “Turner Broadcasting has come to an agreement with Cable One for the continued carriage of our leading entertainment, news, kids and young adult networks including TNT, TBS, CNN, HLN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, truTV, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), CNN en Español and Boomerang. We value the relationships with our viewers and thank them for their understanding. We’re grateful for their continued loyalty and support for Turner’s programming and brands.”
PREVIOUSLY: CableOne reaches 730,000 customers in 19 states, including about 500,000 video subscribers. And beginning this morning they’ve been without Turner channels including CNN, HLN, truTV, TCM and Boomerang. The cable company says it has a right to hang on to TNT, TBS and Cartoon Network but Turner disputes that, saying CableOne can’t distribute the channels under terms of the master agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative. Turner “has demanded an increase of nearly 50% for channels with steadily declining ratings,” CableOne CEO Tom Might says. Read More »
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. and Verizon today announced a comprehensive long-term distribution agreement that will deliver content from Turner’s leading portfolio of networks to FiOS TV customers, across a variety of screens, including television, PC, tablet and handheld devices. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. As part of the agreement, FiOS TV subscribers will receive a robust offering of on-demand programming, as well as live streaming of all major Turner networks that can be viewed in and out of the home across multiple devices, enabled by expansive TV Everywhere rights that provide subscribers more opportunities and easier access to authenticated content. FiOS TV and FiOS Internet customers will ultimately have easier, instant access to Turner brands through an automatic login, providing a seamless and consumer-friendly experience on both Turner’s and Verizon’s platforms. The new agreement provides the more than 5 million Verizon FiOS TV subscribers with a broad array of diverse, entertaining and informative content from Turner’s award-winning and popular entertainment, kids, news, sports and young adult programming.
Andrew Heller was former vice chairman of Turner Broadcasting System before retiring this spring after 27-plus years at Time Warner. As president of Turner Networks Sales, he ran the distribution of 10 domestic networks to the cable, satellite and telco industries, while also serving as chairman of Turner Private Networks. The former Time Warner counsel also helped spearhead the company’s TV Everywhere initiatives. “Andy’s long industry career and deep understanding of the business of media and programming will serve Starz well”, Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said in a statement today announcing Heller’s election to the board of directors.
John Martin sure looks like Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes’ heir apparent with this move, which will put him in charge of Turner Broadcasting System on January 1. Currently Time Warner’s Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, he’ll replace TBS chief Phil Kent who has run the operation since 2003 and now will become the unit’s chairman “for a transition period,” according to today’s release. Bewkes says that Kent initiated the change. They decided that “now is the right time to announce the next generation of leadership.” There’s no mention, though, about how the change might affect David Levy, who’s TBS’ president of sales, distribution and sports — and was widely seen as Kent’s likely successor. Bewkes says that Martin “is one of the most capable and strategically minded executives I know” adding that he’s also “a broad and thoughtful business thinker whose inclusive management style and focus on driving the business forward will fit well with the Turner tradition.” The company says that it will name Martin’s successor “in the coming weeks.” Although Martin has extensive experience handling financial matters, this will be the first time he’ll run such a large creative enterprise. TBS also is at the center of Time Warner’s growth plans, especially after the company spins off its Time Inc magazines. The Turner networks — which include TBS, TNT, and CNN — are worth about $54.6B, or 60% of Time Warner’s current value with publishing, Sterne Agee analyst Vasilly Karasyov estimated last month. Read More »
Time Warner subsidiary Turner Broadcasting is expected to lay off 30% of its staff in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to reports. The news follows a review of the company’s businesses in the regions that was launched in September last year. TBS president of international Gerhard Zeiler said today, “This review required us taking some tough decisions, but they are absolutely necessary to put Turner International in the best possible position for future growth.” About 250 people are expected to lose their jobs. TBS has 17 branded channels in the EMEA region including CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TCM and Boomerang. CNN, however, will not be affected, The Guardian notes.
UPDATE, 12:56 PM: The eight-year agreement with Fox Sports Media Group is the second shoe to drop today in Major League Baseball’s renewal deals, following the one we reported earlier with Turner. When you add these agreements with the one that MLB previously struck with ESPN, the league says that it will see a 100% increase in its annual rights fees compared with its current deals. That jibes with earlier leaks about the terms. In the new arrangement, which begins in 2014, Fox will keep the World Series and All-Star Game and share the League Championship Series and Division series with TBS and MLB Network. Fox will be able to broadcast 52 regular season games nationally on Saturdays, up from 26, and Fox can air 12 of them exclusively. The network also agreed to air a weekly 30-minute show created by Major League Baseball Productions. The pacts include TV Everywhere rights. They also end blackouts that prevented subscribers of MLB Extra Innings and MLB.tv from watching Saturday out-of-market games. Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig says that “the unprecedented and historic commitment these networks have made to televising Major League Baseball for years to come is truly amazing.”
The big question now is whether the networks will be able to pass some of the new costs off to pay TV distributors — and, by extension, consumers who might have to pay higher monthly bills. The deals with Fox and Turner will cost $6.8B over the eight years, Sports Business Dailyreports. That comes to an average of $525M a year for Fox, and $325M a year for Turner. “The plain truth is that these MLB deals will send monthly pay-TV bills streaking skyward,” says American Cable Association Matthew Polka. “They will make life hard for families whose incomes, hammered by the recession, can’t keep pace with the greed of broadcasters, cable networks and sports leagues. And these MLB deals follow the announcement of equally harmful deals between the National Football League and CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN worth more than $42 billion.”
Time Warner’s cable network unit is said to have paid about $175M for the San Francisco-based digital publication that features user-generated articles for sports fans. The Bleacher Report (also known as B/R) is “a strategic acquisition” that “reflects our continuing commitment to bring fans greater content across all screens throughout the entire year,” says David Levy who’s Turner’s president of sales, distribution and sports. B/R has more than 10M monthly unique visitors. Brian Grey will continue to serve as CEO of B/R and becomes an SVP at Turner Sports. The operation also manages digital properties for the NBA, NCAA and PGA, oversees ad sales for NASCAR.COM and has a strategic sales relationship with Yahoo! Sports. Willkie Farr & Gallagher helped Turner Broadcasting with the deal while B/R was advised by RBC Capital Markets and Latham & Watkins.
David Eilenberg had been head of development and current programming at Mark Burnett Productions, where he worked on such series as The Voice, The Apprentice and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? At TBS and TNT, he will oversee unscripted original programming for the two networks, which are expanding their original series lineups to a fill a year-round slate. He will be based is Los Angeles and report to Michael Wright, president, head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies. The Turner networks have already greenlit several new series as they segue to a year-round slate, including the unscripted TNT projects Boston Blue and 72 Hours. This summer, TNT launched its first reality-competition series, The Great Escape. TBS’ expanded originals slate includes the competition series King Of The Nerds (working title) and the newly greenlit Deon Cole’s Black Box (working title) and Who Gets the Last Laugh? (working title).
The late-night comic didn’t bring his best material this year. Conan O’Brien told advertisers that if the upfront event were held on Skype, then “we wouldn’t have to wear pants.” He also zinged Turner Broadcasting for the relatively low-key affair, a contrast to the big networks’ lavish upfront spending from their heyday. “In 1993 it was ice sculptures and caviar.” he said. “Now we’re sending interns over to Dunkin’ Donuts to buy day-old Munchkins.” Jumping on the company’s emphasis on digital expansion, O’Brien says he has 5.5M followers on Twitter “and a pedophile on MySpace.”
He saved his best lines for a version of a feature on his show: Audience Craigslist Ads. He showed Oprah Winfrey with an ad saying “For Sale: Controlling interest in OWN. $10 or best offer.” Company founder Ted Turner wanted to sell his remote control: “I keep turning to TBS for (Atlanta) Braves games…Where are the goddamn Braves?” And a picture of Turner Broadcasting sales president David Levy showed him selling a book of advice on how to succeed when you look like “an adult version of Turtle from Entourage.” Earlier, one of O’Brien’s writers and performers, Deon Cole, gave his take on a show he’s preparing for TBS called Deon Cole’s Black Box. It’s “a clip show from a unique perspective,” he said. “And when I say ‘unique perspective’, I mean … Read More »
Turner Broadcasting System has landed one of Europe’s top TV executives, Gerhard Zeiler, and is making him president of its international division. The announcement today comes hours after Zeiler stepped down as CEO of RTL Group, Europe’s largest TV production and broadcast company. As president of Turner Broadcasting System International, he will report to TBS Inc chairman and CEO Phil Kent and lead a 3,800-person division across Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Zeiler will have executive oversight for all entertainment and kids networks and media services offered outside of North America; the distribution and commercial operations of CNN’s international services; all of Turner’s international joint ventures; and all licensing and merchandising. Turner operates more than 130 channels in more than 30 languages in about 200 countries and operates versions of CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies, as well as country- and region-specific networks and businesses. Read More »
Turner Broadcasting System chairman and CEO Phil Kent has been tapped to give the keynote address on the first day of NATPE|Content First, the annual global content market for buyers and sellers that is set to run January 23-25 in Miami. The former CAA TV packaging agent oversees CNN/U.S., CNN International, CNN.com and HLN; TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies and truTV; Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim; and Turner Sports. “Because of all the content that Turner creates and distributes here and around the world, Phil is in a unique position from which to view the present and the future,” said NATPE president and CEO Rick Feldman, who made the announcement today. “He can speak to the creative and business challenges and can also speak to the vast global, multiplatform opportunities which are dramatically changing our business.” Below is a possible primer for Kent’s keynote: He and Warner Bros International Television president Jeffrey Schlesinger tackled the topic of the future of television during a panel at the just-wrapped Monaco Media Forum in Monte Carlo:
Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal can dunk, but can he make TV audiences laugh? We may soon find out. The contract he just signed with Turner Broadcasting to be an analyst for TNT’s basketball games also includes an entertainment and animation development deal. “O’Neal is a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, with entertainment credits including a number of roles and executive producer credits in both television and film,” the company says. Here’s the release: Read More »
TNT has landed the TV rights to Chris Nolan’s blockbuster Inception in a deal between parent company Turner and corporate sibling Warner Bros. that includes several other WB titles: romantic comedies Sex And the City 2 and Valentine’s Day, action flicks Clash of the Titans and Jonah Hex and the upcoming Robert Downey Jr./Zach Galifianakis comedy Due Date. Inception, Clash of the Titans and Jonah Hex are headed to drama-focused TNT, while the 3 comedies, Sex and the City, Valentine’s Day and Due Date will run on comedy-centered sister network TBS. All are expected to premiere between mid-2012 and early 2013. The licensee fee is believed to be in the standard 10-12% range of the movies’ domestic box-office, depending on their performance. Inception, which is poised to cross the $100 million mark tomorrow morning, would certainly command a premium license fee of 12% and could go as high as $24 million if the thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio crosses the $200 million mark domestically. The deal for Inception comes on the heels of FX’s acquisition of another hot summer action newcomer, the upcoming Angelina Jolie starrer Salt.
Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting System, Inc, announced today that, effective immediately, Jeff Matteson assumes strategic and operating oversight of the TBS, Inc communications team, directing and coordinating messaging across the Turner portfolio of networks and businesses in the newly created role of senior vice president and strategic communications officer. He is based in Atlanta at TBS, Inc. headquarters and reports to EVP Kelly Regal, whose oversight also includes the company’s programming and sales research; media planning and buying; and human resources functions. Misty Skedgell will direct all external and internal corporate messaging as the newly named senior vice president of corporate communications for TBS, Inc. She will serve as the company’s chief spokesperson and also will oversee Turner’s Corporate Philanthropy, Corporate Social Responsibility and Presentation Services groups, reporting to Matteson.