Turner taps brand name

Koonin named prez of cabler nets

Steve Koonin, the exec behind the rebranding of top Turner cablers TNT and TBS, has been named prexy of Turner Entertainment Networks.

Under the restructuring, Koonin gains oversight of recently acquired Court TV, which was folded into the Turner Broadcasting umbrella in spring (Daily Variety, May 15), and Turner Classic Movies.

Reporting to Koonin are Court TV execs Marc Juris, general manger of programming and marketing, and Marlene Dann, exec VP of daytime/news programming; and TCM exec veep-G.M. Tom Karsch.

As TNT/TBS exec VP-chief operating officer, Koonin orchestrated the launch of TNT’s “We Know Drama” and TBS’ “very funny” branding campaigns; he also helped usher in dozens of high-profile series and movie acquisitions.

TNT launched “The Closer,” the most-watched original series in basic cable, and has touted projects from Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott under Koonin’s watch, which also included the key deal to bring “Sex and the City” repeats to TBS.

“Consolidating the group under Steve gives us the ability to best leverage the company’s resources,” Turner Entertainment Group prexy Mark Lazarus said, adding the “triggering mechanism” to fold Court and TCM into one group was the surprise departure of Court TV COO Art Bell last month (Daily Variety, Sept. 16).

Overall priority for his two new networks will be to forge better relationships with the creative community, Koonin said. On the Court TV side, that means he’ll be shifting original programming to do fewer series while focusing on projects and events with high-profile auspices.

“When I look at primetime, what I’m starting to see is real-life drama being played out,” Koonin said. “Audiences are getting younger and bigger, and I think there is a tremendous opportunity for a lot of clever ideas to surface over there.”

Lazarus noted the current programming team at Court TV has several projects in development that explore new territory, any of which could be game-changers for the network. For the third quarter, Court TV averaged 369,000 adults 18-49 (up 9% from the time period a year ago) and 395,000 adults 25-54 (up 4%) in primetime.

As for TCM, Koonin sees future growth opportunities in building up the classic movies brand on new platforms, specifically broadband and video-on-demand.

“The brand is second to none in its space,” Lazarus said. Only fledgling cabler Fox Movies Channel competes; AMC has shifted its biz to a more contemporary set of film “classics.”

Koonin said TCM will remain commercial-free, but Turner would be open to advertising opportunities on new-media platforms.

“We’re open-minded,” but have a lot of exploring to do, he said.

Cartoon Network and its nighttime counterpart aimed at young men, Adult Swim, will remain under Lazarus’ watch. Turner is structured into three core businesses — news, entertainment and animation and kids; Lazarus said Cartoon and Adult Swim have their own issues and complexities, such as different partners in the creative community and international distribution, that keep them separate from Koonin’s networks.

In addition, while Court TV’s daytime news block will fall under the entertainment banner, Dann will share resources and work closely with CNN News Group prexy-COO Jim Walton and his team.

Before Turner, Koonin spent 14 years at the Coca-Cola Co., where he began his career, last serving as consumer marketing VP.

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