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Carving out two identities

Like any siblings, TNT and TBS Superstation sometimes need to be separated. This upfront season, that's just what parent Turner Broadcasting is looking to do.

TNT and TBS are "finally distinctive, not only different" channels, Turner Entertainment President of Sales Mark Lazarus said at a shared upfront presentation in New York last week. The identities are fairly clearly distinguishable, although that wasn't always the case. TNT now pushes its "We Know Drama" identity, and TBS is bent on entertaining the American masses. These days, about the only programming they share are some pricey Hollywood titles.

Buyers say they're getting the message. "For many years, they were a joint buy," said OMD USA Director, National TV, Chris Geraci. "Now look at the schedules and you see how different they are, even more so this year."

TBS and TNT routinely rank among cable's best in household ratings and delivery to key demographics.

That success, said Turner Entertainment President Brad Siegel, comes from a collection of sports, movies, and original and acquired series. "It does not come from reliance on any one program that needs to push beyond the bounds of decency to draw attention and to gain an audience."

Trying to drive home the value proposition, Turner executives unveiled two very different programming slates.

TBS is targeting the younger end of the 18-49 adult demo with comedic fare. "We're not stuffy, not educational, not satirical or self-serious," explained Executive Vice President and General Manager Dennis Quinn.

Come September, TBS will roll out a new comedy block offering Seinfeld, Friends, Drew Carey
Home Improvement
weekdays from 4:30 to 8 p.m. (Jerry Seinfeld, performing at the Turner upfront, mockingly appraised his own show: "Why is this show on TV? Because TV sucks.")

To hype its Hollywood theatricals—primarily comedies and action flicks—TBS is adding four new movie franchises: Thursday's "Movie Break," Saturday morning's "How Stuff Works," and Sunday's "Movie and a Makeover." On Saturday nights, after NCAA college football (also new this year) comes "Man Made Movies: The College Years."

Wednesday nights are reserved for originals on TBS, with a new season of Ripley's Believe It or Not
and a new series teaching viewers how to escape tricky situations, Worst Case Scenarios.

TNT's new original movies and series, as well as acquired programming, are all still hitched to its drama branding.

Sci-fi cop drama Witchblade
returns for its second season in June. Reality series The Residents, in which young doctors transition from med school to professional life, debuts in January. It doesn't matter whether other nets have shelved reality series, said Executive Vice President and General Manager Steve Koonin. "There's nothing more dramatic than life and death. We're not worried about what's in and out."

Ratings workhorse Law & Order
becomes an exclusive TNT property in September, and The X-Files
recently was added in a shared deal with Sci Fi.

A lineup of seven made-for-TV movies includes Door to Door
(July), starring William H. Macy and Kyra Sedgwick, and Monte Walsh
(January), headlined by Tom Selleck. TNT announced a new multi-year partnership with Johnson & Johnson to create at least two family-friendly originals per year. Door to Door
will be the first such "Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation."

TNT also plans TV premieres of box-office hits Proof of Life, The Perfect Storm, The Wedding Planner
and Pay It Forward.