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Kevin Reilly Sets Turner Team: Sarah Aubrey Joins TNT; Sandra Dewey, Brett Weitz Promoted

TNT/TBS prexy Kevin Reilly has unveiled his overhaul of the cablers’ programming teams, enlisting producer Sarah Aubrey to oversee TNT and promoting Turner vets Sandra Dewey and Brett Weitz to key posts.

Reilly, who formally took the reins at TNT and TBS last month, has established separate leadership structures for the drama-focused TNT under Aubrey (pictured left) and comedy-driven TBS under Weitz (right). Dewey (center) will lead an expanded in-house production unit, TNT and TBS Prods., in addition to serving as business affairs chief for both cablers and other channels in the Turner fold.

Aubrey will spearhead series for TNT as exec VP of original programming. She’s spent the past decade partnered with filmmaker Peter Berg in the Film 44 production banner. Reilly said his experience working with Aubrey on “Friday Night Lights” during his NBC days made him sure she was the right candidate to lead the drama-focused cabler in a new direction with edgier material than TNT has been known for in recent years.

At TBS, Weitz has been upped to exec VP of original programming, also with a mandate to change the general thrust of the comedy-centric channel with shows that have more traction in social media and more opportunities for digital extensions. Weitz has been with Turner since 2009, starting out as a development exec at TNT. Most recently he was senior veep of development for TBS and TNT.

Aubrey, Weitz and Dewey will report to Reilly and work alongside him at Turner’s Los Angeles office. When Reilly’s new role as head of TNT and TBS and chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment was announced in November, the network vet said he expected to recruit a strong programming executive to serve as his No. 2 overseeing programming for TNT and TBS.

But after getting under the hood of TNT and TBS during the past month, Reilly said he was impressed with the strengths of Weitz and Dewey, which led to the structure unveiled Tuesday.

“Over the next couple of years, we will continue to sharpen and evolve our brands by doubling down on original programming and being tenacious about our networks’ value proposition,” said Reilly. “These leadership appointments are the important first step in that direction. With Sandra overseeing business affairs and our growing slate of in-house productions, Sarah joining us to make TNT originals even more distinct and valuable and Brett focusing on both growing and further defining TBS originals, we have a great team of stewards to shepherd this transformation.”

The new structure means changes for some Turner programming vets. Lillah McCarthy, senior VP of original programming for TNT/TBS, and Sam Linsky, senior VP of current programming, will now work on TNT originals, reporting to Aubrey. TBS comedy development veep Thom Hinkle will report to Brett.

Some of the previous dual-network management structure will remain.

David Eilenberg will continue to supervise unscripted programming, latenight and specials for TNT and TBS, although Reilly in a memo noted that the cablers will be “assess(ing) our unscripted strategy in relation to our new brand positions.”

Lisa Freiberger will continue to handle casting needs for both networks’ expanding lineup.

Marketing, on-air scheduling and acquisitions execs will continue to work across both nets.

Here’s the memo Reilly sent to Turner staffers on Tuesday:

 

Hello Everyone,

As you heard David Levy and I both say in the town hall a few weeks ago, increasing our original productions and further sharpening the point of view of the TNT and TBS brands will be key to positioning us for continued success going forward. We have committed to more than doubling our slate of original programming over the next three years or so. To prepare us for this, I have some terrific news to share today that’s going to take the first step toward making this transformation a reality.

First up, Sandra Dewey is being elevated to president of TNT and TBS Productions and business affairs. The delivery of content must follow evolving consumer behaviors and platforms. This requires us to have more control over our original programming and monetize it in various ways. Therefore, we are going to be producing a lot more of our own content, and Sandra’s experience and leadership on both the studio and business affairs side is going to be more vital than ever. I can’t imagine a leadership team without Sandra, and I’m very thankful to have her guiding our expanding studio operations going forward.

Second, I’ve decided to split the TBS and TNT original programming teams into two separate units in order to handle our ramp-up of new shows at each of the networks and to allow for more brand-focused development. With that in mind, I’m very excited to announce that I’ve recruited Sarah Aubrey to serve as executive vice president of TNT original programming. Sarah is a friend and colleague I have worked with before, going back to our collaboration on Friday Night Lights at NBC. She comes to us after heading up Film 44, the production company she started with actor-director-producer Peter Berg. In addition to Friday Night Lights, her producing credits include HBO’s acclaimed drama The Leftovers and the hit movie Lone Survivor. I am very confident Sarah is going to bring a fresh new perspective to TNT, and I can’t wait for her to start!

On the TBS side, we’re planning an aggressive transformation of the network with a focus on making the new TBS more of a destination for bold original programs and a network that is more digital and socially driven. To lead the network’s expanded slate, I’m happy to announce that Brett Weitz has been promoted to executive vice president of TBS original programming. I have garnered a lot of respect and comfort with Brett in a short amount of time. Since joining the company in 2009, Brett has proven himself to be a terrific programming executive, with a string of hits that includes Rizzoli & Isles and Falling Skies, among many others. In his new role, I know Brett is going to push the TBS slate in exciting new directions.

Sandra, Sarah and Brett will all report to me under this new structure. To support them in their roles, valued veterans Lillah McCarthy and Sam Linsky will now focus their duties specifically on TNT originals, reporting to Sarah, while Thom Hinkle will remain at TBS, reporting to Brett. David Eilenberg will continue to supervise unscripted programming, late night and specials in support of both networks as we assess our unscripted strategy in relation to our new brand positions. And Lisa Freiberger will continue to handle our casting needs for both networks’ expanding lineup.

Even though I think it’s important that we have two separate teams handling original programming for the networks, I plan to maintain the current structure of marketing, on-air, scheduling and acquisitions working across both TBS and TNT. It’s the best way to be efficient with our resources, share assets between the two networks and encourage collaboration.

Please join me in welcoming Sarah to the Turner family and congratulating Brett and Sandra on their well-deserved promotions!

I hope you’re as excited as I am about the future we’re embarking on for these two great networks.

Onward!

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