Koonin upped at Turner

Exec sees his job as 'portfolio management'

Consolidation continues at Turner Broadcasting, which has merged oversight of TBS Superstation and TNT under Steve Koonin.

Koonin, who had previously only headed up TNT, will now serve as exec VP and chief operating officer of both TBS Superstation and TNT.

Out in the restructure is TBS Superstation exec VP-general manager Dennis Quinn, who has been reassigned to the company’s operations and strategy division.

Move is the latest in a series of corporate changes at Turner since Philip Kent took over as chairman-CEO in February. A month later, Mark Lazarus was upped to prexy of the Turner Entertainment Group and given newly merged oversight of both programming and sales inside the TBS empire.

TNT and TBS Superstation have already worked closely together on some programming concerns, including theatrical movie acquisitions. By placing Koonin atop both TNT and TBS Superstation, Lazarus said Turner was looking for one exec to figure out how to position the two general entertainment cablers at the same time.

“We are best suited to continue to distinguish these networks as totally separate beings,” Lazarus said. “This is one leader looking across the program assets and aligning them in a way that assigns a specific role for each network.”

Koonin said his added oversight isn’t a precursor to additional consolidation at TNT and TBS Superstation.

“The real efficiency comes at my level,” Koonin said. “It’s really about portfolio management. I’m the portfolio manager now, and can acquire assets that fit the profile of each brand. The directing of the assets in the portfolio is what I see my job being, as well as reinventing the brand of both services.”

Koonin joined Turner in 2000 as exec VP-general manager of TNT and set out to relaunch the channel as a drama-dominated destination, led by off-net runs of shows such as “ER” and “Law & Order.” The cabler had less success with firstrun dramas such as “Witchblade,” but has pledged to invest $300 million in original programming between 2003 and 2005.

As a result, TNT is producing several made-for-TV movies in the coming year, including a remake of Neil Simon’s “The Goodbye Girl.”

As for TBS Superstation, the cabler employed a more male-friendly strategy until recently, when it started pushing its afternoon/evening comedy block of off-net laffers including “Seinfeld” and “Friends.”

“We’re looking for a positioning that takes advantage of the comedy block and takes advantage of the youthful branding on the net,” he said.

But Koonin said he wasn’t ready just yet to brand the net as a comedy companion to the drama-fueled TNT.

“The hard part of positioning TBS is it has defied categorization,” he said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Overall, TNT finished first quarter of 2003 as the No. 1 basic cable net in primetime among total viewers, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. Year-to-date, in total day standings, TBS is the No. 1 basic cabler with adults 18-49, while TNT is No. 2. In prime, it’s the reverse: TNT is tops, while TBS is in second place.

Lazarus said those standings are helped by the two nets’ aggressive program spending budgets. Combined, TBS and TNT spent more than $1 billion on programming in 2002, more than any other cabler save ESPN (Daily Variety, March 11).

“We’re not in a mode of desperation,” Lazarus said. “We’ve got a little luxury to experiment and position ourselves for growth. Under Steve’s direction we’re confident we’ll only get better.”

Koonin joined Turner after 14 years at Coca-Cola, where he was vice president of consumer marketing.

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