Turner Pitches Southern-Fried TV

At its first New York City upfront presentation in mid-November, Turner South called attention to its two newest primetime offerings-
Liars & Legends

Creole Commander

-as well as plans for two more original series.

The regional entertainment network pitched more than 100 advertising executives at its Big Apple upfront on Nov. 16. The event was aimed at those interested in targeting Southeastern consumers with their products and services.

Liars & Legends

bowed in September as a Thursday-night series, offering segments on topics like Blackbeard's buried treasure, while
Creole Commander

-featuring a seafood chef-will debut in the second quarter, said Turner South vice president and executive producer of original programming John Parry. He is a former Food Network executive producer.

Two more original-series projects are due in 2001.

The year-old Turner South's only other upfront presentation took place in Atlanta last summer. Most network's upfronts will start next spring. But vice president and general manager David Rudolph said his network operates on more of a local-advertiser scale, rather than a national one, and now is when calendar-year buys are made.

The network has targeted the travel category and some consumer products that tend to over-index among Southerners, from specific soft drinks to certain types of apparel.

More than 12 national clients have already bought time on Turner South, such as The Coca-Cola Co., General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor, Office Depot and General Mills Inc., Rudolph said.

Regional accounts include Southeastern Toyota, BellSouth Corp., Georgia Power and Opryland, he added.

The slogan for the fledgling, 3.3-million-subscriber network is, "Television, Southern style." In a clip shown to the Madison Avenue folks, country singers Marty Stuart and Pam Tillis, author Anne Rice and Time Warner Inc. vice-chairman Ted Turner bragged about the region and its music, food and culture.

Program clips captured the flavor of current series, like
Southern Living Presents

(based on the Time Inc.-owned magazine
Southern Living

), as well as
Live from the

Bluebird Café

WCW Classics
, a Saturday series hosted by past World Championship Wrestling star Dusty Rhodes. (One upcoming
Southern Living

segment will feature former President Carter building a Habitat for Humanity home.)

In Nielsen Media Research ratings for the Atlanta market, Turner South's peak numbers for primetime and weekend dayparts through October include a 4.1 household rating for
Southern Living
, a 2.7 for
WCW Classics

and a 1.7 for
Bluebird Café.

Among movie packages,
True Grits

peaked at a 1.8 rating,
Reel Southern Cooking

at 1.5 and
Cheerios Rise & Shine Movie

at 1.0.

Nielsen has measured Turner South's ratings in that market since July, according to Rudolph.

Rudolph said distribution growth-already ahead of plan-remains a major focus for the network. It surged from 750,000 homes at its fall 1999 debut to 3.3 million in October, adding systems from AT&T Broadband, Charter Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable.

Turner South could top 3.6 million by year-end, the general manager said.

Ultimately, Turner South looks to reach 6 million cable and satellite subscribers in six Southeastern states. Other goals include expanding its Internet presence and forging strategic partnerships with advertisers.