Upfront 07

Turner Tries a 'Brand and Programming Summit'

Instead of an Upfront Presentation

By Published on .

The Date: March 13, 2007
The Venue: Museum of Modern Art, New York
Key Execs: Mark Lazarus, president, Turner Entertainment Group; Steve Koonin, president, Turner Entertainment Networks; Marc Juris, general manager, Court TV; Michael Wright, senior VP-original programming, TBS and TNT; Linda Yaccarino, exec VP, Turner Sales and Marketing; David Levy, president, Turner Entertainment Ad Sales/Marketing, and president, Turner Sports
The Food: The usual fresh fruit and bakery fare coupled with coffee, juice and Coke to keep guests alert throughout the lengthy presentation.
The Ratings Game: In 2006, TNT fell to No. 2 (behind USA) in prime-time ratings for adults 18- to 49-year-olds and total viewers. Also in prime time, TBS' comedy lineup continued to rank higher than Viacom's MTV and Comedy Central among adults 18-34 during the same daypart in 2006. Meanwhile, Court TV enjoyed the strongest ratings year in its history.
Steve Koonin, president, Turner Entertainment Networks, presented factoids on the average hours Americans spend watching TV every day.
Steve Koonin, president, Turner Entertainment Networks, presented factoids on the average hours Americans spend watching TV every day.
The Programming Slate: TBS had two hits this winter with original comedies, the prime-time "My Boys" and the late night "10 Items Or Less," and will bring both back for second seasons this summer. Court TV has over 250 hours of original programming on its slate for 2007, with a new brand slogan -- "Seriously entertaining" -- and new name and look for the network coming in 2008. TNT, meanwhile, made much of its breakout drama "The Closer," with special nods to forthcoming shows such as medical drama "Heartland" featuring Treat Williams and detective series "Saving Grace" starring Holly Hunter.

With all this talk of the death of the upfront as we know it, leave it to the Turner entertainment networks to lead the charge in the next wave of programming presentations. The Time Warner company held its first "brand and programming summit" -- not an upfront presentation, they insisted, despite throwing two of the same summits for media buyers and planners -- at the MOMA today to a packed crowd of past, current and potential clients that dissipated as the running time went well past the two-hour mark. It was like the Academy Awards with even more brands -- particularly given the 11th-hour appearance of Oscar winner Holly Hunter to announce her upcoming series "Saving Grace."

Mr. Koonin introduced the summit's theme as the "4 Ps" of Turner Entertainment -- positioning, programming, promotion and platforms. He made joking reference to his own positioning at the podium: "I feel like Moby Dick in an aquarium up here." He then presented the audience with factoids on the average hours Americans spend watching TV every day -- eight.

"TV is a full-time job for most people in this country," he said, pointing out that 77% of all TV viewing happens outside of prime-time. Enter Turner's new lineup of original programming that will keep them active in all dayparts -- with brand integration to spare.

Part of TBS' "very funny" branded-entertainment initiatives for the year will include "bitcoms," which will merge stand-up comedy and commercials. To illustrate this, a clip of comedian Gary Goldman was shown riffing on his love for Double Stuff Oreos, followed by a humorous ad for the creamy cookie itself. Other potential integrations include a virtual rendering of the "Family Guy" household on TBS' broadband and video-on-demand platforms, where product-placement opportunities are limitless, and "My Boys," which this past season included a successful partnership with Match.com. Following that deal, creator Betsy Thomas is open to other products using the show's storylines in their own commercials.

Elsewhere, Court TV displayed footage of some of its more promising reality series -- including "The Real Hustle" and "Tiger Team" -- which will lead the network into its re-branding at the start of 2008. And TNT congratulated the continued success of "The Closer" while unveiling plans to make new dramas "Heartland" and "Saving Grace" equally buzzworthy hits this summer. There could very well have been more, but a lengthy running time and a tight deadline meant MediaWorks had to skedaddle before Holly Hunter could even make her apperance. We're sure she was lovely.
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