TNT Likes ‘West’s’ Performance

Aug 1, 2005  •  Post A Comment

TNT last week labeled “Into the West,” its six-episode miniseries that is part of the network’s $125 million commitment to original programming this summer, as a huge success.

“It’s been an incredible summer for us,” said Steve Koonin, general manager of TNT and TBS.

Turner said that 81 million people watched part of “Into the West,” which premiered June 10 and wrapped July 22.

“That’s staggering,” he said. “The program helped TNT draw more 18 to 49 viewers than broadcast weblets The WB and UPN during June.”

TNT averaged 1.4 million viewers in the demo in prime time in June, compared with 1.1 million for both UPN and The WB, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“I’ve never been more pleased or proud of a project my whole career,” Mr. Koonin said.

Ratings for the miniseries trailed off as it went along, particularly after the network opted to not show it over the Independence Day holiday weekend. The premiere episode of “Into the West” drew 1.8 million viewers in the 18 to 49 demo in its first play on Friday. The finale drew 1.1 million, a 42 percent drop.

“We hoped people would stay with it, and a large portion did,” Mr. Koonin said. “From opening weekend till closing weekend, it definitely went down. We anticipated that happening, and our second-quarter [ad] prices were more expensive than our third-quarter prices because of that. We did ask the viewer to do a lot. It was very ambitious.”

The show also skewed relatively older, with Friday night’s premiere audiences averaging 56.7 years versus the network’s prime-time year-to-date average age of 47.5.

Westerns traditionally attract an older audience. “We have a long and very smart history with Western-related product,” Mr. Koonin said. “There were no surprises here for us.”

But he said beyond ratings numbers, the show helped Turner reach other goals, including promoting the launch of its new hit “The Closer” and setting the stage for the premiere of “Wanted.”

The miniseries established Turner in the originals business, he said, noting that Michael Wright, senior VP of original programming for TNT, “did a brilliant job as our executive on this project and it’s allowed him to increase the quality and level of people who are coming to the network with ideas.” “Into the West” sent an important message to the creative community, he said. “We’re willing to take big risks, make big investments and support our properties in a big way. And the dividends from there will be positively felt for years to come.”

“We feel like we had a fantastic return on our investment. We’d do it again tomorrow and we hope to do it again,” he said. “Into the West” will come out on DVD and will air again next year on TNT. He said Turner is having “ongoing conversations” with Steven Spielberg, who executive produced “Into the West,” about other projects.

Looking ahead, Mr. Koonin said TNT has nine scripts in development. “We have several huge projects lined up for ’07 that we just can’t speak about right now,” he said, adding that TNT is working with “some of the biggest people in the entertainment business.”