Upfronts 2009: Turner Turns Up the Heat

Upfronts 2009: Complete Coverage from B&C

Could Turner Broadcasting be making a play for an NFL package? The Time Warner company is certainly cozying up to the league with a new documentary about the behind-the-scenes of the football championship and the run-up to the Super Bowl. The series, NFL Full Contact, made in conjunction with NFL Films, will air on factual-focused Turner channel TruTV, the network said as part of the Turner Broadcasting upfront presentation made today. Turner already broadcasts NASCAR, NBA, MLB and professional golf.

When asked if Turner would make a bid for any NFL rights, ad sales, distribution and sports President David Levy told B&C, “The NFL is extending deals with existing partners and there won’t be an opportunity until 2013. They have a quality product and we continue to look at it.”

Turner Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin added that the sports documentary concept might work with other sports leagues and that the aim with TruTV was to “try to take you places you can’t get to.” Speaking to B&C at a press lunch following its upfront event, Koonin took the fight to broadcast networks, “I think Lipstick Jungle (NBC) had a smaller audience than The Closer and was twice the price.” On Monday Fox had sniped about The Closer’s small audience relative to broadcast.

Koonin then suggested that cable had taken away the kids genre, news and sport from broadcast TV. “Five years ago, original series were the last stronghold of broadcast. That foothold has crumbled underneath them,” he said. Turner unveiled shows as varied as an animation series from Jeffrey Katzenberg, Neighbours From Hell, to a new light-hearted drama series Men Of A Certain Age, penned by and starring Ray Romano. That particular series had languished at HBO following Chris Albrecht’s departure and had piqued the interest of CBS as a half-hour comedy before landing the pick-up from TNT.

Koonin also said that while the broadcast networks allocated their marketing dollars to specific shows, Turner had money to lavish on all its productions. Though he refused to say how much, when asked to detail that investment, that is something that marketers are interested to hear about when attaching their ad dollars to productions. When asked to identify themes at TNT, Koonin said the network was exploring the concept of  "everyday heroes,” with shows like Hawthorne, starring Jada Pinkett Smith as a thoughtful caring nurse, and Dark Blue from Jerry Bruckheimer, about undercover cops in Los Angeles.