Road to the Upfront: Turner Broadcasting

How Time Warner's TBS and TNT Are Positioning for May

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NEW YORK ( -- May's annual TV sales pitch and ad rate negotiations known as the upfront is right around the corner. We're here to help you keep track of the players. This is the third in Advertising Age's weekly series tracking cable and broadcast TV networks as they begin to lay out their positions. This week: Turner Broadcasting's TBS and TNT.

David Levy

THE PLAYERS: Time Warner's cable entertainment giants, TBS and TNT.

KEY EXECUTIVE: David Levy, president, Turner Broadcasting Sales.

THE RATINGS GAME: For the full year 2005, TNT remains No. 1 in the prime-time ratings for adults 18-49 and adults 25-54, but it has been challenged as of late by NBC Universal's USA Network, which added WWE in October. In 2005, TNT reached an average of 1.9 million households. For full year 2005, TBS unseated MTV as ad-supported cable's most-watched network among adults 18-34.

WHAT YOU'LL HEAR: TNT has focused on drama since 2001. Its original crime drama, "The Closer," was the most-watched new original cable series, averaging a 3.7 national household rating for its first season. TNT plans to continue its lineup of one-hour dramas, such as "Law & Order" and "Without a Trace," and will introduce an anthology series, "Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King." TNT also has Nascar races and NBA games. Its lineup is anchored by off-network sitcoms like "Seinfeld," "Friends" and "Sex in the City," supplemented with baseball games and unscripted comedies like "Daisy Does America."

LAST YEAR'S UPFRONT: Turner started high, asking for big cost-per-thousand viewers (CPM) increases that left some buyers griping that the sales team had unrealistic expectations on pricing, given the low CPM increases that broadcast network ABC was pitching to the market. However, in 2005, TNT took the second spot behind ESPN for total ad dollars, coming in at $1.15 million up from $905,626 in 2004. TBS also saw increased ad dollars to $778,000 up from $769,000. Figures are from TNS Media Intelligence.

THE BUYER'S VERDICT: "They have the funny and the drama concepts and while they've bought more comedy, they've started to invest in original drama, that's paid off with 'The Closer' and they're bringing in a new show about paramedics called 'Saved.' ... They're not just a second-run network, and that's pretty cool," said Larry Novenstern, Deutsch exec VP-director of national electronic media.

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