WB Network Chief Jamie Kellner jumped to the top of the AOL Time Warner's TV operation, taking control of not just the money-losing broadcast network, but cash machines Turner Broadcasting and Home Box Office. Party line is that TBS Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk decided to "step back" from day-to-day operations and step back to the post of vice chairman. (No explanation why CFO Wayne Pace is also described as vice chairman.)
No subtlties about TBS President Steve Heyer, who "will be leaving the company to pursue other interests." Heyer is an ad sales wiz and former consultant who was considered the golden boy to rise high at Time Warner. He's got another gig already lined up. "He overplayed his hand," said one media executive close to Heyer. He wanted to run the whole company, AOL COO Bob Pittman wanted Kellner to handle at least programming and marketing, Heyer lost the fight, the executive said.
AOL Time Warner makes a big deal out of the restructuring, but other than the exec shuffle, the only major change is that WB is no longer its own separate division. The move tucks WB into the TBS/HBO operation, where it probably should have been as soon as Time Warner acquired TBS in 1996. But the intense political rivalries between Warner Bros. and other parts of the company made that difficult.
They've eliminated the structural stupidity of the past," said Sanford Bernstein media analyst. "It always was a dumb way to run it." Now, perhaps, the WB will be as aggressively cross-promoted on TNT as TBS and CNN are.
Perhaps more importantly, Kellner knows how to program networks, and particularly, knows how to develop series. TNT and TBS has been hugely successful and profitable with their formula of theatrical movies, lots of sports plus a smattering of original movies. But neither network has ever accomplished much in series TV, unless you count Ripley's Believe it Or Not. - John Higgins
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