TV Upfront

TNT Fields Its Biggest Original Lineup Yet

'Dallas' Revival and More Unscripted Fare

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Heading into TBS and TNT's upfront presentation to advertisers on Wednesday morning, parent Turner issued a release announcing a "bold strategy" to evolve the cable networks into "branded video destinations." But aside from a partnership with the website Funny or Die and a broad discussion on digital, the real headline was Turner's expansion of original, but traditional, TV programming.

The new 'Dallas' on TNT
The new 'Dallas' on TNT

TNT will run nine original series this summer, including its revival of "Dallas," the biggest slate of original programming in the network's history. Both TNT and TBS will take a bigger stab at reality programming. And TBS also recently announced the acquisition of "Cougar Town," an ABC castoff, as well as three sitcoms premiering by the end of 2012.

Syndicated reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" have made TBS the most-watched cable channel for adults 18 to 49 in prime time during the first quarter, a title USA Network held for six years. Now TBS will use "Big Bang" as a lead in to the new geek reality show called "King of the Nerds."

Turner's concerted push into reality programming also comprises "The Great Escape," "Boston Blue" and "72 Hours" on TNT. Turner also has unscripted shows "American Troubadours," "Cold Justice," "Rivals" and "24/7" in development.

The motto at Turner's upfront was "popcorn mindset," a phrase that was repeated at least a dozen times during the presentation as executives referred to the ability to take viewers on a satisfying journey, whether it's with drama on TNT or comedy on TBS.

On the digital front, Turner announced a deal with Funny or Die that makes it the exclusive seller of advertising opportunities.

"Multi-screen is not just about putting TV content on a device, but creating content that can run independently or in conjunction with the programming slate," said Steve Koonin, president of Turner.

Conan O'Brien closed out the presentation discussing digital opportunities and his 5.5 million Twitter followers. Using a version of his late-night show's Audience Craigslist Ads bit, Mr. O'Brien poked fun at everyone from Ted Turner to Oprah Winfrey. But Conan and Turner execs saved the biggest beating for themselves: Mr. Koonin rolled out a "crash cart" for the upfront that included emergency devices such as an overhead projector and defibrillator in case of another power outage like the one that brought last year's presentation to a screeching halt.

Andy Richter, Phil Kent, Michael Wright, Larry Hagman, Steve Koonin, Linday Gray, Tony Denison, Patrick Duffy, Donna Speciale, Eric McCormack, Frank Sgrizzi, Angie Harmon, Mary McDonnell, Courteney Cox, Brenda Strong, David Levy, Conan O'Brien, Steve Byrne, Vince Vaughn and Noah Wyle at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York for TNT and TBS's upfront presentation
Andy Richter, Phil Kent, Michael Wright, Larry Hagman, Steve Koonin, Linday Gray, Tony Denison, Patrick Duffy, Donna Speciale, Eric McCormack, Frank Sgrizzi, Angie Harmon, Mary McDonnell, Courteney Cox, Brenda Strong, David Levy, Conan O'Brien, Steve Byrne, Vince Vaughn and Noah Wyle at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York for TNT and TBS's upfront presentation Credit: Jeremy Freeman
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