Kellner taps old friend for Turner program job

Ex-WB, NBC prexy inks four-year pact

Former NBC Entertainment president Garth Ancier has reteamed with longtime colleague Jamie Kellner, joining Turner Broadcasting as exec VP of programming.

Ancier will be charged with figuring out ways in which the WB and the Turner cable networks can start sharing programming resources. The one-time WB Entertainment prexy will work closely with Kellner, the recently appointed chairman-CEO of Turner Broadcasting, and split his time between Los Angeles and Turner’s base of operations in Atlanta. Ancier, who is already scheduled to fly to Atlanta on Thursday, begins immediately.

Turner entertainment heads, including the WB’s Susanne Daniels and Jordan Levin, Turner Entertainment Networks’ Brad Siegel and Cartoon Network’s Betty Cohen, will continue to report to Kellner but will collaborate with Ancier under the new arrangement.

The Turner gig is Ancier’s first since he departed NBC late last year. It’s also a homecoming of sorts for the exec, who spent five years under Kellner at the WB before joining NBC in May 1999. Kellner also recruited Ancier in 1986 as Fox’s first entertainment president.

Ancier had been rumored to be up for a variety of jobs in recent weeks, including positions at Warner Bros. and Fox. Sources said the exec had two other offers on the table when Kellner came calling; the duo met over the weekend in Santa Barbara to hammer out a deal. Sources believe that Ancier has sealed a four-year pact with Turner.

A deal was formalized Tuesday morning. Kellner officially announced Ancier’s appointment at the WB’s pre-upfront presentation to advertisers Tuesday afternoon.

“He’s someone we all love and respect,” Kellner said. “We hated to see Garth go, and we’re delighted he’s back with us. Garth’s expertise will be very helpful as we start thinking about long-term strategies with TNT and TBS. We’re going to be much bigger in the production business, and it’s more than I could handle by myself.”

The execs had few details on the extent of Ancier’s role at Turner. Kellner said Ancier’s job would evolve as they begin figuring out ways to create synergies between the Turner networks and The WB.

For example, Kellner has been a proponent of dual windows for programming, having searched for a second home for “Felicity” and “Jack & Jill” this fall. Ancier noted that The WB goes off the air at 10 p.m., allowing the network to perhaps program a cable network at 10 p.m., while still in primetime.

Ancier said the Turner job was “something that I really wanted to do.”

“What’s exciting is this is the first time a broadcast network and a broad-based cable entertainment network has been combined under one management group,” Ancier said. “This changes the business model. No one knows how to do it right just yet. I’m attracted to something that breaks the mold.”

Years of consideration

Ancier said he and Kellner had conversed for years about figuring out ways to combine resources between cable and broadcast outlets.

“We’ve got the dominant network with 20- to 30-year-olds in the country and the dominant online service,” he said. “We could grow the WB at a rate never before possible.

“The more you think about the assets assembled here, there’s an opportunity to make historic changes,” he said.

Ancier left NBC last December after an 18-month tour of duty. The exec came to the net from the WB, where he had served as entertainment president since the Frog’s 1994 launch.

Besides his time at Fox, Ancier’s lengthy TV experience also includes stints as president of production for network television at Disney and as an independent producer (“The Ricki Lake Show”).

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