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The Five Spot: Frank Tanki

Bonus Five

What shows are on your DVR?The Walking Dead; Atlanta; Music City; Younger; Lip Sync Battle Shorties; SpongeBob SquarePants; New York Rangers hockey
All-time favorite TV show? The Odd Couple (original); White Shadow
What is your favorite podcast? Planet Money
What is your favorite app? Waze
Books on your nightstand or tablet, or in your suitcase for Tahiti?The Good Son: The Life of Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini by Mark Kriegel, Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

In June of 2017, Viacom veteran executive Frank Tanki was handed the job of day-to-day operations for CMT, adding to the same duties he already had for TV Land. Nearly 10 months later, CMT and TV Land’s general manager has both networks on a performance upswing.

CMT has experienced 16 consecutive months of year-over-year ratings growth in the adult 18-49 demo on the strength of such shows as Nashville, which will end its successful six-season network run in July. Meanwhile, TV Land in March had its best ratings month since January 2014, continuing to cultivate original shows such as Younger and Teachers. Despite not being named as one of Viacom’s six “core channels” (BET, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Paramount Network and Comedy Central) under Viacom CEO Bob Bakish’s vision for the future of the company, Tanki said CMT and TV Land are “hugely relevant” and have the support of Viacom management.

B&C senior content producer R. Thomas Umstead spoke with Tanki about the future of his networks. An edited transcript follows.

How would you define the TV Land and CMT brands? Both the brands are different, but they’re both in a great position and really embraced by the fans. We see TV Land as the TV experience, and we see CMT as being grounded, of course, in TV but really an ability to go more expansive than that.

CMT had success in the scripted category in recent years with shows such as Nashville. Will the network continue to develop other shows in the scripted arena? We continue to evolve and follow our fans. We were really proud of Nashville, and in many ways Nashville the series has been a bit of a game-changer for CMT. For right now, we’re really excited about the blueprint that Music City has set for us in a nonscripted space. We still want it to look aspirational, culturally relevant and we want it to look premium, but I think for right now you’ll see us more in that space. That’s not to say that we’re completely out of the scripted business — we’re looking at biopics.

Will you look to develop more original programming for TV Land? TV Land is just a great workhorse, and I think that there is still growth for our two originals, Younger and Teachers. Younger this past summer is coming off its highest season ever, which in a multi-season franchise is really exciting. Teachers is another really hysterical series that we want to get out there. So for TV Land, it’s a little bit of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

How do you see TV Land and CMT fitting into the overall Viacom portfolio? As we look at how Viacom is performing domestically, there have huge properties and huge networks, and I don’t see that changing. We’ve got a lot of support from a lot of the Viacom management team, so I feel good about our future considering that.

Are there any new shows on either TV Land or CMT that we should look forward to? I think for CMT we’re really excited about Wife Swap. I think given everything going on in the country, it’s probably the perfect time for Wife Swap to come back. I think we’re going to update it a bit — I think it will be true to its core — but that’s something we’re really excited about. We’re also excited about Music City. We were looking for a great follow up to Nashville, the series and Music City felt like it came around for us at the perfect time.