Originals at Center Stage

Apr 11, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Building on a top-rated stable of off-network hits, Turner Broadcasting plans to highlight original shows during its upfront presentation this week.

David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting Sales, will aim to take advantage of the flow of dollars from broadcast to cable, telling advertisers angry at the high price of television advertising that they can save money with Turner and put the savings into TV opportunities that go beyond 30-second spots.

“You can replace any broadcast network with TBS or TNT or a combination, not affect your reach-maybe even grow your reach-not affect your frequency and have a cost saving that you can then reinvest into what we’re calling either sponsorships and promotions or branded entertainment or broadband and [video-on-demand] opportunities. Now you’re really trying to stretch your dollar and get the biggest bang for your buck,” Mr. Levy said.

Mr. Levy said he plans to stress the success stories enjoyed since TNT was rebranded as a drama network and TBS as a channel for comedies. “Now we have two very distinct brands with really good growth stories, and in this television marketplace there are not a lot of people out there talking about growth stories,” Mr. Levy said.

Turner’s original programming is designed to continue that growth, he said.

New shows that will be screened at the upfront, being held in New York at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, include TNT crime dramas “The Closer” and “Wanted.”

TNT will also tout Steven Spielberg’s 12-hour limited series “Into the West,” which will premiere in June. Ad time in “Into the West” is fairly well sold already, Mr. Levy said, but screening it will serve as a good introduction for next year’s big project, which the network is working on with author Stephen King.

TBS shows include “Daisy Does America,” featuring the cross-country travels of British actress-comedian Daisy Donovan across the United States.

“We are really reinvesting the money back into the programming to continue to push these brands forward in all distribution outlets,” including broadband, VOD and wireless, Mr. Levy said. “We’ll be working with our advertising partners to figure out how to launch these new distribution mechanisms with them somehow involved in the process.”

Turner will also offer product placement opportunities, but, “It really has to be organic in the shows. It has to be nonobtrusive, it has to enhance the viewer experience, not detract from it,” he said. “We’re not looking to throw every product in each of these shows because, you know what, that’s not going to work for the advertiser and it’s not going to work for our brands.”

Mr. Levy said he’s discussing placing an auto brand in “Wanted,” a show about an elite team of crime fighters, and a wireless company in “Closer,” about a special unit within the Los Angeles Police Department.