TV Upfront

TNT Tries Revamp to Reach Younger, More Male Audiences

Conan O'Brien Contract Renewed Through 2018

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TNT is pitching advertisers at its upfront presentation Wednesday on a brand refresh designed to help lure younger viewers and more men, including a new tagline, "TNT Drama. Boom," to replace the familiar "We Know Drama," which it has been using since 2001.

The revamp is likely aimed partly at media buyers as well. TNT, which is owned by Turner Broadcasting, continues to be a top cable network, ending 2013 as No. 3 in total viewers and No. 4 among adults 18-to-49. But its programming hasn't received the same buzz and critical acclaim as shows on rival cable networks such as AMC's "The Walking Dead" and FX's "Sons of Anarchy." That hasn't been lost on advertisers, for whom cultural currency and social media chatter have become more important.

"Today, we are introducing an aggressive update of our drama brand -- our look, our tone and the content behind it," Michael Wright, president, head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies (TCM), said in a statement. "It's time to evolve and grow TNT -- and that starts with refreshing the brand and evolving our content along with it."

"'Boom' speaks to the experience we want to deliver to TNT viewers," Mr. Wright said. "It's about the thrill of the chase, or overcoming impossible odds and winning the day .… Most importantly, 'Boom' makes a promise to our audience about the kind of emotional, intense, exciting, funny, shocking, sexy and thrilling drama they should expect from TNT."

The new tagline will enter use on May 19, coinciding with TNT's coverage of the NBA Western Conference Finals.

TNT also plans to premiere three new series this summer: "Last Ship," a drama about a naval destroyer at sea when a pandemic kills 80% of the world's people; "Murder in the First," a Steven Bochco mystery drama; and "Legends," starring "Game of Thrones" alumnus Sean Bean as an undercover FBI agent. "The Librarians," a series expanding on the "Librarian" TV movies starring Noah Wyle, will debut this winter. And in 2015, TNT will air "Public Morals," described as a gritty, intense crime drama, and "Proof," a serialized supernatural drama.

Series in development include a show about an ex-Special Ops soldier who goes off the grid; another supernatural drama, this one revolving around creatures who are committing brutal murders in the Pacific Northwest; and a crime show based on Ed McBain's "87th Precinct" book series, among others.

"The goal is to make TNT feel like going to a great summer movie," Mr. Wright said during the upfront presentation.

The network also showed off two unscripted series: personal improvement show "Wake Up Call," starring Dwayne Johnson (also known as The Rock); and "On The Menu," a cooking show from producer Mark Burnett that features amateur cooks.

While TNT attracts large audiences, averaging just under 2 million viewers in prime time, there's a desire by even the biggest networks to develop content that lives in the cultural zeitgeist. USA Network, the No. 1 cable channel in total viewers, recently introduced a new slate of programming that moves away from its blue-sky dramas.

At TNT sibling network TBS, late-night host Conan O'Brien has renewed his contract through 2018. The renewal comes amid a shakeup in the late-night genre that has seen the retirement of Jay Leno and pending departure of David Letterman; Jimmy Fallon taking over "The Tonight Show"; Seth Meyers moving into "Late Night"; Stephen Colbert tapped as Mr. Letterman's successor; and Larry Wilmore taking over for Mr. Colbert at Comedy Central.

Mr. O'Brien, whom Mr. Wright called "the heart and soul" of the TBS comedy brand, closed the presentation with a brief roast of the network and its executives, at one point comparing Mr. Wright, a former actor, to John Wilkes Booth, another actor who became known for something else. "This is a guy with a long-term deal," Mr. O'Brien said, referring to himself and his recently extended job security.

The comedy-centric network will continue to piggyback off the success of "The Big Bang Theory" reruns and begin airing reruns of "American Dad." Its original comedies "Cougar Town," "Sullivan & Son" and "Ground Floor" will return. And it will introduce two new series, a comedy game show called "Funniest Wins" and the reality show "CeeLo Green's The Good Life."

Next year TBS plans to air the recently green-lit series "Your Family," "Buzzy's" and "Angie Tribeca," which is a working title. The network is also developing projects from executive producers Ed Helms and John Krasinski.

During this year's upfront Turner for the first time pitched its entire portfolio of networks, which also include TruTV, Cartoon Network and its Adult Swim programming block, CNN, and its digital properties, under one sales umbrella led by Donna Speciale. The restructuring is designed to allow marketers to more seamlessly purchase ad inventory across networks and platforms.

Ms. Speciale and her team are offering advertisers several new tools that incorporate data, content marketing, real-time messaging and more advanced targeting under the rubric "Now Media." The tools include Targeting Now, which will let advertisers target consumers beyond age and sex demos; ROI Now, which measures advertisers' integrated marketing partnerships to gauge how much sales and online visitation increased; Content Now, which creates branded content; and Real Time Now, which allows advertisers to bring real-time marketing to TV.

Contributing: Michael Sebastian

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