Turner is handing over the programming reins for TBS to Michael Wright, the TNT exec behind this year’s most-watched original series on basic cable, “The Closer.”
Wright is soon expected to be named head of original programming for both TNT and TBS. Promotion aligns the development groups of both cable networks under the Los Angeles-based exec, whose title will be senior VP.
He will continue to report to TBS/TNT exec VP-chief operating officer Steve Koonin. Programming senior VP Ken Schwab, who handles all scheduling and acquisitions for both cablers, will also continue to report to Koonin.
For TNT, Wright spearheaded the development and launch of the Steven Spielberg exec-produced event series “Into the West” as well as frosh dramas “Closer” and “Wanted.” Projects delivered record-breaking ratings for the Tuner net, previously best known for its arsenal of “Law & Order” repeats.
In his expanded role, Wright will be charged with working that same magic over at sister net TBS, which bowed its original programming campaign in the middle of last year with mixed results.
TBS relaunched as a “very funny” destination in June 2004, armed with a strong lineup of off-net sitcoms and rights to HBO hit “Sex and the City.” On the strength of those skeins and a robust library of theatrical titles, the channel ranked third in its target 18-34 category (behind longtime demo leader MTV and TNT) for the third quarter.
But barring the first season of “The Real Gilligan’s Island,” TBS’ original efforts have come and gone without much fanfare. Ratings for its most recent entry, a reality show starring Pauly Shore called “Minding the Store,” fell below the net’s primetime average.
Wright, however, will have a leg up when he steps into the new job: Koonin has already put into place a new strategy focused less on reality and more on scripted and hybrid comedies (Daily Variety, Aug. 23).
Among the projects already in development are a half-hour from Sean Hayes called “Broken News,” in which actors improvise a local newscast; “Todd’s Coma,” an offbeat sketch show about the dreams of a guy in a coma from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Prods.; and an animated series from blue-collar comic Ron White.
TBS VP of original programming Christy Kwon Kreisberg and TNT VPs Nicholas Bogner and Sharon Byrens are expected to continue in their roles and report to Wright.
Wright joined TNT as senior VP of movies/minis in 2002 and added original series to his plate in early 2004. Before that, he spent eight years as longform veep at CBS Prods. and CBS Entertainment.