×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TNT-TBS Chief Talks TV’s Transformation, Conan O’Brien’s Future

TNT and TBS are hip-deep in a “radical transformation” designed to keep the networks vibrant in a survival-of-the-fittest moment for traditional networks. That’s what TNT and TBS president Kevin Reilly told reporters Thursday morning during Turner’s portion of the summer Television Critics Assn. press tour.

“We’ll be radically different in two years than we are sitting here today,” Reilly said. He also flatly stated that some networks will simply go away as the industry adjusts to changing economics and viewing habits.

“Two years from now you’re still going to be covering as many shows but you’re going to for sure be covering less entities. (But) we will be here even as the definition of television opens up.”

TNT and TBS have undergone a programming makeovers during the past two years since Reilly took the helm. This summer marks an inflection point for TNT as it has a slate of four original dramas — “Animal Kingdom,” “Good Behavior,” “Claws” and “Will” — that represent a major tonal break from the network’s past. TBS has stocked up on quirky half-hours that are anything but traditional sitcoms, from the serial mystery “Search Party” to the edgy domestic comedy “The Detour” to the scorching political humor of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

Reilly said the average age of viewers for TNT’s original series is 14 years younger than the previous slate of originals. He cited “Animal Kingdom” as the only returning original cable drama this summer to see ratings growth.

Reilly also emphasized the behind-the-scenes transformation in the staff at TBS and TNT. There has been significant investment in digital strategy and operations to help the company stay ahead of the curve on audience engagement and data optimization — wonky work that is making a difference for the profile of the shows and the networks, Reilly said.

“How people watch and the different ways they connect to TV — you’re going to see some expansion and radical transformation” throughout the industry, he said. “We’re going to be part of that — we’re already on the move.” The job of programmers these days is “not just about putting things in that (TV) box but redefining what that box is.”

Among other topics Reilly addressed:

Conan O’Brien: It’s expected that TBS’ late-night talker “Conan” will transition in the future away from a nightly format to a weekly or specials-oriented scheduling pattern. Reilly said the details are still being firmed up. He hinted that O’Brien’s relationship with Turner will be a prime example of a new approach to a talent relationship for Turner. “We’re beginning to put a formal structure on what it is to be a personality-based entertainer in this day and age of TV,” he said of O’Brien.” “I think (O’Brien) will be a little bridge to what I’m talking about and why it will be radically different.” Moreover, O’Brien’s work is “at the height of his career,” Reilly said. “He has such a skill-set — on his feet, live and unrehearsed. There’s not one environment that you can put him in that he doesn’t shine.”

Advertising: Reilly was pressed about the countdown clock that TNT runs during commercial breaks to indicate when the program will return. He said Turner’s experiments with reducing the ad load in its original series is paying off. The countdown clock came out of an effort to “organically create a better experience” for viewers dealing with commercial breaks. “With a smaller pod there is real awareness on behalf of the consumer and they appreciate it,” he said.

More TV

  • Game of Thrones Composer Ramin Djawadi

    'Game of Thrones' Composer Ramin Djawadi: 'I'm Still in Denial'

    Since the first season, Ramin Djawadi has composed the music for “Game of Thrones” and created the epic tunes, including the iconic theme song, heard over the series’ most memorable moments. With the series finished, he talked with Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1 about his experience on the show and an upcoming 20-city [...]

  • TUPAC SHAKUR black panther collection

    ‘Defiant Ones’ Director to Helm Docuseries on Tupac, Who Assaulted Him in 1993

    Director Allen Hughes, who helmed the award-winning HBO documentary “The Defiant Ones,” has closed a deal with Tupac Shakur’s estate for a five-part docuseries for which he will have full access to all of the late rapper’s released and unreleased recordings, writings and poetry, according to an announcement from his rep. The announcement says the [...]

  • Ellen DeGeneres -- The Ellen Show

    Ellen DeGeneres Extends Daytime Talk Show Run Through 2022

    Ellen DeGeneres is sticking with her daytime talk show. DeGeneres announced Tuesday that she has signed a new deal to continue hosting “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” through 2022. There had been rumors for some time that DeGeneres was planning to leave the show when her current contract was up in 2020, something she leaned into [...]

  • How YouTube Is Trying to Get

    How YouTube Is Trying to Get Will Smith His First-Ever Emmy Nomination (EXCLUSIVE)

    YouTube could be the key to Will Smith finally earning a Primetime Emmy nomination — or win. The superstar Formerly Known as the Fresh Prince has been nominated for two Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and one Screen Actors Guild Award, and has won four Grammys (out of eight nominations). Yet a Primetime Emmy nomination [...]

  • Carpool Karaoke with Celine Dion on

    James Corden Gets Celine Dion to Sing 'Baby Shark,' Sail the Vegas Seas (Watch)

    Anyone who has seen Celine Dion’s long-running Las Vegas show knows she plays the comedienne almost as much as chanteuse, with a goofball quality that came in especially handy on a Monday night edition of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke.” The 15-minute segment ended with Dion and Corden trading carpooling for ship-pooling and sailing around Las [...]

  • Greg KinnearPhoto Call with Greg Kinnear,

    Greg Kinnear Cast in Amazon Comedy Pilot 'Good People' From Lee Daniels, Whitney Cummings

    Greg Kinnear has signed on to star in the Amazon comedy pilot from Lee Daniels and Whitney Cummings, Variety has learned. Kinnear joins previously announced cast members Lisa Kudrow and Cummings, the latter of whom is co-writing the series with Lee Daniels in addition to starring and executive producing. Titled “Good People,” the half-hour project [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    Gersh Agency Stirs Ire After Canceling Network Meeting for Former Client

    In a sign of hostility in the war between the WGA and Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, Gersh Agency has come under fire from TV and film writers for canceling a network meeting that it had arranged for a now-former client. Writer Jorge Reyes disclosed the incident in a series of tweets on Monday. Reyes asserted [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content