'National Channel' to evolve

MTV Networks topper Tom Freston’s newest domestic baby, the revamped TNN: The National Channel, continues to evolve.

Formerly known as country cabler The Nashville Network, TNN was put under Freston’s command shortly after Viacom acquired CBS (which had owned the channel) in 2000.

The stage was set to turn TNN into a broader, entertainment-driven outlet after it outbid USA for rights to World Wrestling Federation programming.

Freston, however, bristles at calling TNN a “general entertainment channel.”

“The general entertainment category is not a great thing,” he says. “We’ve never been a general anything. TNN is a work-in-progress. Our goal is to engineer it into a demo-specific channel in a (younger) age group.”

TNN, which has started using slogan “We’ve Got Pop,” will supplement its wrestling programs with a variety of male-oriented program acquisitions this fall, including “Star Trek: Next Generation,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Baywatch” and “MadTV.”

Original programming will include series such as “Fame in 15,” which looks at people who had brushes with celebrity, and “Ultimate Revenge.”

The net also will air repeats of CBS’ hit drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” starting in 2002 — but Freston cautions that TNN won’t simply turn into an outlet for second runs of CBS fare.

“We don’t see TNN as having to live off the fat of CBS,” he says. “We see TNN as an independent channel that programs itself with 50% of its own programming where it makes sense.”

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