Koonin Adds Court TV, TCM to Portfolio

Steve Koonin's world grew last week: The head of TNT and TBS added two more cable networks to his portfolio, Turner Classic Movies and Court TV, as newly named president of Turner Entertainment Networks.

Koonin — who, as executive vice president and general manager, oversaw the rebranding efforts of TNT and TBS to become the respective homes of “drama” and “very funny” content — will now also be responsible for building upon the established brands of 75 million subscriber TCM and 86 million subscriber Court TV, according to Turner Entertainment Group president Mark Lazarus.

Turner parent Time Warner Inc. acquired the 50% in Court TV it didn't own from Liberty Media for $735 million in cash last May.

TCM executive vice president and general manager Tom Karsch, Court TV general manager of programming and marketing Marc Juris and the investigative network's executive vice president of daytime and news programming, Marlene Dann, will all report to Koonin.

“This is an important move for our company,” Lazarus said. “This will help me manage the [Turner Networks] portfolio in a way that will allow us to meet the consumer needs and hit each unique set of consumers by utilizing the resources of the Turner brands.”

Koonin said the jury's still out on any major programming changes at Court TV, which prior to the Turner takeover had successfully melded its daytime live courtroom coverage with primetime original programming and movies.

“They've done a very good job at building their network and their brand,” he said. “We want to look at where we can expand and grow the network.”

What you won't see on Court TV is The Closer or any other crime or law-based programming from TNT, according to Koonin. “We worked very hard to distinguish our networks as separate brands, so the last thing we want to do is muddy those waters.”

Court TV, though, has shared in Turner's corporate synergies as the service's Thursday night lineup since mid-August has included “Most Wanted Movies,” a marquee that has included such films as Seven, Donnie Brasco, The Client and A Few Good Men.

Koonin said the movie migration was part of an effort to look at better ways to program Court TV.

As for TCM, Koonin said the network will remain commercial free and preserve its vintage-movie brand, although the addition of more contemporary movies to the network's lineup seems likely.

“Classic movies aren't necessarily black and white films from the 30's and 40's,” he said. “The [executives] at TCM have a good handle on what's contemporary classic and they will continue to add the right mix of programming.”

He also said more original specials and documentaries are on tap for the classic movie network, as well as an expansion of programming into other distribution platforms.

“Movies are part of the fabric of our country, and the network has huge value and importance to so many different constituents that I'm looking forward to us working together to add greater value to the network,” he said.

TCM's upcoming original slate for 2007 includes projects on director Steven Spielberg, acting icon Marlon Brando and original series Idols, in which one of today's stars sits down and speaks with someone who influenced and inspired them.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.