Turner Studies Impact of Red-Blue Divide on Viewing

Turner Broadcasting is conducting a research project to see how the division in the country that was evidenced in its coverage of the presidential election is also affecting consumption of entertainment programming.

John Martin, CEO of Turner, speaking at a meeting between the company’s top execs and reporters who cover TV Thursday, said the company is looking at the country, county by county, to see if there are differences in viewing habits in the red areas versus the blue areas.

“We want to make sure we hear from the fans,” he said.

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Turner president David Levy said the presidential election has not yet affected any of its decisions to renew or cancel programming. But he said Turner’s networks are getting pitched programming that is different from what it has seen in the past.

Some of those shows were period pieces that depict other times when the country, or a state, was divided, he said.

Levy said he also expected to see an uptick in programs that feature political commentary, like TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Turner has shifted its focus since last year to putting fans at the center of what they do from putting consumers at the center of what they do.

Martin said this was an important difference at a time when viewers are fragmented. Fans are valuable because they interact with programming they like. The share it on social.

“Fans can’t get enough, and they’re happy to pay for it,” he said.

Turner is also looking to increase its focus on non-advertising and non-subscription revenue. That “other” category represents only about 7% of Turner’s revenue now.

To do that Turner will have to build new businesses and be innovative,” Martin said.

Turner also pointed to having three of the most talked about people in the business on its networks in CNN’s Jake Tapper, TBS’ Samantha Bee and Turner Sports’ Charles Barkley.

On the heels of his controversial comments about LeBron James, Barkley has put together a four-part series on race called The Race Card.

Barkley went into the trenches, Levy said, and could get anyone to talk to him.

The series debuts at the end of the month.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.