Bear market buries ‘Bull’

Show may not resurface if strike is averted

NEW YORK — If writers and actors strikes are averted, TNT’s first original scripted series, “Bull,” may not make a comeback after all.

The cable net had been planning to debut the second season of “Bull” in January, but postponed the premiere in order to hoard original programming in case of a strike.

At a Gotham press conference Tuesday, however, TNT general manager Steve Koonin said the series “might only be a contingency show,” and that if there is no strike, it may not return. Eleven original episodes of the series about Wall Street traders have already been shot. Koonin said no decision will be made about its future until summer.

“Bull,” which made its debut last summer just as the stock market was beginning to take a turn for the worst, earned lackluster Nielsen numbers.

Dramatic shift

Meanwhile, in an effort to distinguish itself from sister net TBS, TNT will brand itself as a destination for “drama lovers.”

Execs said that while TBS will continue to court the “regular guy,” TNT will target fans of dramatic entertainment with original movies, scripted series, sports, off-net series and theatrical movies.

“For so many years, people looked at TBS and TNT as sort of the same network,” said Turner Broadcasting System prexy of general entertainment nets Bradley J. Siegel. “This branding initiative will further differentiate TNT from sister network TBS Superstation.”

As part of the shift, NASCAR, which was slated to debut on TBS in July, will now air instead on TNT. NBC Sports and TBS had shelled out a combined $1.2 billion for the rights to 38 NASCAR races between July and November for the next six years.

Out of the ring

Last week, TNT said it would no longer air WCW wrestling. The net’s final WCW Monday Nitro telecast aired Monday. Siegel said that as early as two years ago, Turner had planned to move wrestling off TNT to TBS, but that it no longer fit with the demographic of either net.

“We’ll miss the excitement every week and the healthy household number, but we wanted a different demographic and psychographic,” Siegel said.

Instead of wrestling, TNT will air movies on Monday nights.

Beginning in June, TNT’s original series “Witchblade” will premiere in primetime, sandwiched between repeat episodes of “Law & Order” (Daily Variety, March 5).

Siegel expressed confidence that both general interest cable nets would weather a strike well. “We’re better situated than virtually any other network, because of the amount of sports and our heavy reliance on theatricals,” Siegel said. “We’ll become a major alternative for big programming.”Neither TNT nor TBS announced plans to share content with younger sibling the WB. Jamie Kellner, the former WB CEO who was recently tapped to oversee a TV networks group that includes the Turner basic cable nets and the WB, has said he is aggressively looking for opportunities to share content across multiple platforms.

With its upfront advertising presentation skedded for later in the day, Siegel said he is “cautiously optimistic that the money will be there for the latter part of the year into 2002. But nobody is predicting huge CPM increases.”

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