Turner Entertainment seems to try hardest to make advertisers laugh at its upfront presentation — and generally succeeded this time with help from Will Ferrell, Conan O’Brien, and TBS newcomer Pete Holmes. In a recorded routine, Ferrell said that he had bought the company and with his background in comedy “I couldn’t care less” about networks including CNN, TNT, and TruTv. Since “I like to mess around with my new toys,” he introduced the new boss: Charles Barkley. The former NBA star said that since “I’m in charge now” viewers would be “seeing a lot more Charles Barkley” — cutting to clips from Turner shows that insert him into the action. “This is the kind of bold thinking I was hoping for,” Ferrell said. “With me as CEO of Turner, and Charles, can you really go wrong?”
The first three months of 2013 were mixed for the entertainment giant. Time Warner says this morning that it generated net income of $720M, +23.9% vs last year’s Q1, on revenues of $6.93B, -0.6%. That missed the consensus analyst forecast of $7.12B. But adjusted earnings at 82 cents a share were well ahead of predictions for 74 cents. At the cable networks, including HBO, revenues were up 3% to $3.7B with operating income +11% to $1.3B. The company says that a 1% decline in ad sales ($12M) and 4% drop in content revenues ($11M) took some of the edge off of subscription revenues which were +5% ($115M). Ad growth at Turner‘s U.S. entertainment networks “was more than offset by declines at its news networks, due to lower demand” as well as the closing of channels in India and Turkey last year. Film and TV entertainment saw operating income grow 23% to $263M even though revenues fell 4% to $2.7B. Time Warner attributes the decline to “lower theatrical performance and a decline in television licensing revenues” — adding that it was offset by higher home video sales for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Argo. Meanwhile the magazine publishing unit, which the company plans to spin off, generated a $9M operating loss (vs last year’s $5M loss) on revenues of $737M, -5%.
Nicole Priem and Matt Bunting have been promoted at the TEN Sponsor Shop, Turner Entertainment Networks’ award-winning, full-service, in-house creative agency, producing sponsorships and promotions for TBS and TNT advertisers. Priem has been named senior vice president, sponsorship solutions for the TEN Sponsor Shop, and Bunting has been named senior vice president, creative for the TEN Sponsor Shop. Both executives are based in Atlanta and report to Laura Dames, senior vice president of business operations for Turner Entertainment Networks, which includes TBS, TNT, truTV and Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., including multi-platform entertainment networks TBS and Adult Swim, is joining forces with Funny Or Die in a strategic partnership that links three of the biggest brands in comedy. TBS, the highest-rated comedy network on television, and Adult Swim, TV’s leader with young adults, along with select Turner digital properties, will collaborate with Funny Or Die to accelerate the digital content provider’s sales and cement all three brands’ position as the leading multi-platform destinations for great comedy.
It may not sound like much at first, but Cablevision and Time Warner took an important step today to help make TV Everywhere a reality. The companies announced that Cablevision customers now can watch shows from TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and truTV on broadband-enabled devices outside the home — not just inside. The arrangement also provides for live streaming of news from CNN and HLN. Over the next year or so you can expect to hear a lot of announcements like this from pay TV distributors and programmers. Comcast, Dish Network, and Verizon are already a step ahead of Cablevision in offering out-of-home service. But this deal for a package called Turner TV Everywhere is the first time Cablevision has offered such popular entertainment and news programming so broadly to digital devices.
The Parents Television Council fired another volley today at one of its favorite targets: adult-themed cartoons that also attract kids. The activist group called for “sweeping reform” of the TV content rating system as a study it released points to what it says are “shocking levels” of sex and drug references in primetime on animation channels that are popular with kids between 12 and 17. “Adult content isn’t just creeping into the cartoons that kids today are watching the most; it has overtaken much of that animated programming,” PTC president Tim Winter says. “Our data demonstrates that today’s norm is profanity-laden storylines involving everything from rape and cocaine to STDs and crystal meth.” PTC is especially upset with programming on Turner’s Cartoon Network and Adult Swim: The report, titled Cartoons Are No Laughing Matter, gave each an “F” grade for their handling of adult-themed animation. Disney Channel and Nick At Nite each received an “A”.
TNT & TBS Upfront News: ‘Closer’ Spinoff & ‘Band’ Ordered To Series, ‘Conan’ Hits The Road, New Movie Franchise Greenlighted
As we reported last week, TBS this morning officially announced the series pickup of hourlong comedy The Wedding Band. Also officially ordered to series is The Closer spinoff Major Crimes. More news in TNT and TBS’ upfront release:
TNT and TBS, which staged their Upfront presentation today in New York, are making bold moves to bolster their remarkably strong foundations in original programming. The networks are developing extensive new lineups of scripted and unscripted series and making a new push into half-hour comedy in partnership with some of the top talents in the industry, from award-winning actors to acclaimed producers, writers and best-selling authors.
This year marks the beginning of production of the final season of the blockbuster hit The Closer, starring Kyra Sedgwick. TNT confirmed today that it has ordered a 10-episode season of Major Crimes, a series set in the Los Angeles Police Department that promises to become television’s next great crime drama. The seventh and final season of The Closer will include 15 episodes in 2011 and six in summer 2012, leading into the launch of Major Crimes, starring Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica). McDonnell has been featured on The Closer as Capt. Raydor, who was often on a collision course with Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, played by Sedgwick. Major Crimes will be executive-produced by James Duff, creator of The Closer, along with Greer Shephard and Michael M. Robin. Major Crimes and The Closer come to TNT from Warner Bros. Television.
TNT is working with several chart-topping authors on a new lineup of original movies set to debut in November and December 2011. The TNT Tuesday Night Mystery (working title) will feature a slate of six contemporary crime dramas, from true-crime stories to fictional mysteries. TNT is developing the two-hour movie Innocent, based on the book by best-selling author Scott Turow. TNT is also developing movies based on Richard North Patterson’s Silent Witness; Sandra Brown’s Ricochet; Lisa Gardner’s Hide; April Smith’s Good Morning, Killer; and Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark’s Deck the Halls. The TNT Tuesday Night Mystery marks TNT’s return to original TV movies, a format that has earned the network many Emmys, along with unprecedented ratings that hold records yet today.
For TBS, Conan O’Brien is taking his late-night talk show CONAN on the road for the first time. O’Brien will set up shop at the Beacon Theater in New York Oct. 31-Nov. 3 to celebrate the first anniversary of his arrival at TBS. The event will mark O’Brien’s first stint in New York since he hosted Late Night with Conan O’Brien. In 2012, CONAN will hit the road again for a stop in Chicago.
Turner Entertainment Networks has promoted Jeff Gregor to …