After months of on-again, off-again negotiations, former Fox and NBC entertainment chief Kevin Reilly is close to sealing a deal to become the head of Turner Broadcasting’s TNT and TBS cablers. Formal announcement of his hiring is expected in the next few days.
Reilly’s new post will be based in Los Angeles and he will report to Turner Broadcasting prexy David Levy. A rep for Turner declined to comment.
Reilly will oversee all aspects of Turner’s cornerstone entertainment cablers, including content development, marketing, scheduling and business affairs. A big part of his mandate will be to develop cross-platform strategies for the cablers and monetization efforts for original programming.
In programming, Reilly fills the void left by former prexy Michael Wright’s departure in August. Reilly’s oversight at TNT/TBS is broader than Wright’s post, although Wright also had oversight of programming for TCM. (Wright is now bound to take the helm of Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios in January.)
Reilly had been the top candidate to take the reins of Turner at a time when Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin is looking to implement a major overhaul of TNT and TBS. It’s understood that Reilly pressed to report directly to Martin rather than Levy. Turner execs flirted with a few other candidates — a list that included Sony Pictures TV co-prez Zack Van Amburg — but coming to terms with Reilly remained the focus despite the fits and starts of the recruiting process.
Reilly will join Turner after a period of upheaval for the Atlanta-based Time Warner unit. The Turner cablers have been without strong executive leadership since April, when longtime Turner Entertainment Networks topper Steve Koonin abruptly left the company after 10 years to run the Atlanta Hawks NBA team. Wright was seen as being in limbo from that moment on until he also tendered his resignation.
TNT and TBS have been suffering through ratings declines this year, amid a broader slump across most of basic cable’s largest players. Beyond that, the exec ranks at Turner have been roiled during the past few weeks by layoffs of 1,475 staffers that were mandated as part of Time Warner’s company-wide cost-cutting efforts. Reilly will undoubtedly have more re-engineering to do when he settles in to his new post.
Reilly left Fox in June after seven years as its head of programming. Before that he logged two stints at NBC, and in between he had a solid run at FX from 2000-2003, where he led that cabler’s aggressive original programming push with such shows as “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck.”