New Turner Broadcasting System Inc. chairman and CEO Jamie Kellner hired longtime colleague Garth Ancier last week to oversee programming as executive vice president of the company's new Turner Networks unit.
Ancier said he had been in talks with Kellner and officials at Warner Bros. and AOL Time Warner Inc. about taking a position within the company since he was ousted from his post as NBC entertainment president late last year.
"This really only started to precisely come together when Jamie took over as chairman of Turner Broadcasting.which to me was a completely unexpected turn of events," Ancier said last week.
AOL Time Warner named Kellner CEO of TBS Inc. on March 6, when it also formed a new Turner Networks division, encompassing The WB and nine Turner cable networks, including Turner Network Television, TBS Superstation, Cartoon Network and Cable News Network.
Ancier said in a prepared statement that current Turner Network division heads will continue to report directly to him, including TBS general- entertainment networks president Brad Siegel, Cartoon Network president Betty Cohen and The WB programming heads Susanne Daniels and Jordan Levin.
"We don't need him [Ancier] to administrate here; there is plenty of infrastructure for those tasks," Kellner said.
Ancier said it was too early to discuss specific plans for the Turner Networks. But he said his objectives include building better brands for TNT and TBS, and looking for ways to share programming among The WB and other Turner networks.
Ancier also backed Kellner's recent move to dump World Championship Wrestling from TNT and TBS.
"He's clearly trying to make the network a bit more upscale, and that's what advertisers really respond to, and will pay a premium for," Ancier said.
Regarding CNN, which is now engaged in a tight battle with Fox News Channel for ratings leadership in the all-news segment, Ancier said he'll help develop new programs but won't suggest how it should cover the news.
"News operates as a separate venture which has to have a separation of church and state mentality in terms of their journalistic integrity," Ancier said. "So the programming issues there become much more about long-form programs and sort of trying to figure out with the team there what the next Crossfire
or Larry King Live
is, than about anything having to do with actual news."
Ancier said he'll look for opportunities to share programming between The WB and the Turner cable networks, emphasizing that it's more economical to produce programming that will be repeated on other outlets.
"There's no question that it doesn't make a lot of sense to be making $2-million-an-hour shows that only play twice a year," Ancier said. "That was a model based on three networks in the 1950s, before cable and VCRs, and here we are in a 80-channel universe."
Before Kellner and Ancier teamed up at The WB, where Ancier was programming chief, the duo worked together at Fox Broadcasting Co. There, Ancier served as president of entertainment.
Ancier will be based in Los Angeles, and he'll also have an office at the Turner Networks headquarters in Atlanta.
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