At the upfront, remarks by several executives drove home the point that for Turner, the development of “premium” content and a reduction in commercials go hand-in-hand.
“The consumer experience must come first,” said Donna Speciale, president of ad sales for Turner Broadcasting. “We’re dedicated to keeping our content bold, engaging and less cluttered,” she told ad reps in the audience at the Madison Square Garden Theater.
The event encompassed a wide range of Turner-owned properties, including TNT, TBS, CNN, TruTV, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, HLN and Turner Sports.
“Early research has shown that with reduced commercial loads, consumers’ intent to purchase is dramatically higher. Let’s work together to give consumers more of the shows they love, to give the creative community a better environment to tell their stories, and to help your brands win too,” she said.
Turner is not the first company during this upfront season to promise smaller commercial loads during its shows. Indeed, the vow to reduce the number of commercials has become one of this season’s most noticeable mini-trends.
Network after network has discovered that the ever-expanding commercial pods they have been positioning within their shows has emerged as a key reason why so many viewers have abandoned linear TV -- particularly on cable -- for SVOD services that have few commercials or none at all.
Speciale gave her company credit for kick-starting the trend.
“I’m thrilled that many of our colleagues across the industry, including NBC, A&E, Fox and Viacom have noticed our moves and are joining us in reducing ad loads. Now, we need you, the advertising community, to support these moves. It is critical for all of us.”
How much will commercials be reduced?
By as much as half of what they are now, said Kevin Reilly, president of TNT and TBS, later in the presentation. TNT’s new dramas “will be presented in the ‘more show’ format that Donna mentioned earlier, an industry-best 10 minutes more show [and] half the commercial inventory in every episode,” Reilly said. “This is a better experience for viewers, and a higher brand-recall and intent-to-purchase for your brands. We hope to lead the way to a new standard for ad-supported TV,” he said.
In his portion of the presentation, Reilly announced seven drama projects for TNT -- some finished and ready to air, and others in various stages of development. He also announced two new scripted comedies for TBS.
TNT’s new dramas include two period pieces -- “Will,” a largely fictional drama about the early life of William Shakespeare in 16th-century London, and “The Alienist,” an adaptation of the novel by Caleb Carr about a 19th-century criminal investigator who focuses on determining the behavior patterns of criminals in order to apprehend them.
Other dramas include “Animal Kingdom,” premiering next month, about a modern-day crime family led by a matriarchal queenpin (Ellen Barkin); and “Good Behavior,” a drama set for next fall about a thrill-seeking con woman who is trying to reform her life. Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” stars.The two new TBS comedies coming later this year are “Search Party,” described as a “mystery-comedy” about a young woman searching for another young woman who she recognizes on a missing-person poster as a former classmate and “People of Earth,” described as an “alien-abduction comedy.”
CNN also had several programming announcements, including two new “event” documentary mini-series -- “The Nineties,” another in CNN’s continuing series of “decade” docs, and “The History of Comedy.” According to a trailer shown at the upfront, this docu-series will trace the history of comedic entertainment from at least the silent movie era to the present day.