As part of a co-development project with the country's largest owner of shopping malls, Simon Properties, Turner is creating a retail entertainment network that will combine segments from TBS networks CNN, Turner Network Television and the Cartoon Network with specially tailored material for mallgoers.
The unnamed 50/50 venture will start popping up in Simon's malls around the country by yearend. Simon fully or partly owns approximately 240 malls with 70 in the country's top 20 markets, including the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.
Turner, which already operates the CNN Airport Network, is creating a separate division to oversee the mall network and will eventually appoint a general manager to oversee the group.
EVERYWHERE THEY LOOK
Mallgoers will run into Turner's retail network virtually wherever they look, with wall-based TV monitors plastered at strategic points throughout the mall running Turner programming in a continuous loop.
Turner's mall network also will include a Web site; live in-mall entertainment; interactive media stations; a mall magazine; and an interactive "family zone."
Other mall spaces will house interactive kiosks for customers to browse the Web and possibly conduct e-commerce.
"We're changing the mall structure from a place where people go for commerce only, to a place where people go for commerce, entertainment and information," said Stephen Heyer, president of Turner Entertainment. "It's a unique multimedia platform that gives our network substantial competitive advantage."
Network programming will be a mix drawn from Turner's family of cable networks combined with other short-form material. Turner will try to tap other Time Warner properties, such as material from its WB network.
Programming will be customized for various dayparts with, for instance, its early day schedule filled with cartoons and women's themed material.
Observers said Turner's mall network will mainly serve as a platform to tout its TV products.
"From a promotional standpoint, you can have an outlet for people who have never seen your programming before to try to get them interested in it," said Derek Baine, analyst for consultancy Paul Kagan Associates.
But other industry experts questioned whether Turner will be able draw in viewers in an environment that's not exactly TV friendly.
"Turner has done a good job with its airport channel, but there you have a captive audience," said Chris Geraci, senior VP-general manager, BBDO Worldwide, New York. "Human behavior in a mall doesn't lend itself to TV watching while shopping. I don't see it being something people will really pay much attention to unless there's an area for people to get comfortable in."
Turner's Cartoon Network-themed family zone, which will house interactive games, animated programming and concessions, could take direct aim at carving out a piece of the kids retail market now dominated by the Disney Store.
Disney officials could not be reached for comment.
Mr. McConville is cable editor at Electronic Media.