Upfronts 2014: Turner Puts Focus on TNT Revamp

Upfront Central

Turner offered a new mix of execs and an effort to overhaul TNT at its upfront presentation to media buyers Wednesday.

Weeks after Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes publicly singled out TNT as needing more buzz, execs took the wraps off a new slogan, "TNT Drama. Boom." It will debut May 19 during NBA playoff telecasts.

The upfront had a smooth, solidly produced feel but upfront vets noted the absence of longtime exec Steve Koonin, who departed earlier in the spring for a management/ownership role with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks.

Michael Wright (pictured above), programming chief for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, sought to strike a balance between reinforcing the existing ratings strength with the need to evolve. Together in 2013 they have four of the top 15 shows on TV in total viewers.

"Change is good. And sometimes change is necessary," Wright said. "TBS is in great shape. For TNT, change is in the air."

In the coming months, Turner plans a raft of new series including The Last Ship, Murder in the First, Legends, The Librarians, Proof and PublicMorals. It also plans one new reality series a quarter, with upcoming launches including the Mark Burnett-produced On the Menu and The Wake Up Call featuring The Rock.

TBS, which has drawn huge ratings with syndicated episodes of Big Bang Theory, is building its originals lineup. Forthcoming titles include Funniest Wins, Sullivan & Son, CeeLo Green's The Good Life and Ground Floor. High profile long-runners also set for the TBS lineup include Cougar Town and American Dad.

Further down the road are Steve Carell's Angie Tribeca and Buzzy's, from the producers of Will & Grace.

On the ad sales front, Donna Speciale addressed the crowd for the first time since being upped to president of sales. She announced NOW Media, a new multiplatform approach knitting together social and digital buys with linear presence.

Frank Sgrizzi, executive VP of sales, also elaborated on the scheme, drawing a parallel with a New York phenomenon of 50 years ago. "We're living in the entertainment version of the World's Fair," he said. "Nobody likes to think about the future more than Turner."