TV Upfront

In Cable Sea of Look-Alikes, TruTV Looks to Shed Copycat Image

Network Will Take a Bigger Swing In Comedy

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With cable awash in reality genre shows like its 'Hardcore Pawn,' TruTV is seeking a pivot.
With cable awash in reality genre shows like its 'Hardcore Pawn,' TruTV is seeking a pivot.

TruTV is undergoing a strategic shift in programming as it looks to shed its image as a copycat network.

The Turner Broadcasting-owned cable channel will get a refresh heading into the upfronts, the industry's annual negotiations with ad buyers for the approaching TV season, taking a bigger stake in comedy.

"It's time for a change," said Chris Linn, president and head of programming at TruTV. "Things have gotten stale."

While TruTV made a successful transition from Court TV in 2008, it has since gotten "stuck," said Mr. Linn, who joined the network last May.

"The network is derivative of the competition and derivative of itself," Mr. Linn added, saying many of the shows currently on air look and feel similar in format in style.

TruTV's slate of programming includes "Hardcore Pawn," "Container Wars," "Storage Hunters" and "Swamp Hunters," each of which are iterations of series seen on other networks like History and Animal Planet.

The network's prime-time ratings are down over 31% for the season, averaging 684,000 total viewers.

The sheer tonnage of original content, meanwhile, coupled with cable and satellite operators' desire to shed networks that don't provide additional value to consumers, makes TruTV's refresh vital to its future success.

So with the recent success of "Impractical Jokers," which averaged 2.3 million viewers in the most latest quarter, TruTV will look to the comedic side of reality programming.

Its next slate of programming will start to reflect that shift. "The Carbonaro Effect," starring comedic magician Michael Carbonaro, will bow in May. In the show, Mr. Carbonaro performs tricks on unsuspecting people and captures it on a hidden camera.

The network also greenlit "Friends of the People," a scripted, sketch comedy series, and "Motor City Masters," a competition series.

Mr. Linn said TruTV will be targeting "fun seekers," but noted it won't become Comedy Central, which he said has a certain type of humor that's not for everyone. "TruTV will appeal to a broader comedic sensibility," Mr. Linn said.

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