In Adweek's cover story this week, Turner president David Levy and his team detailed their ambitious plans to innovate at the company heading into this year's upfront—and perhaps significantly alter the future of linear advertising in the process. Their vision is so elaborate, in fact, that there wasn't space to touch on everything they're doing.
Here are six key details that didn't make it into the magazine article:
There aren't any plans to reduce ad load beyond truTV and TNT
Donna Speciale, president of Turner Ad Sales, is making an aggressive push to improve the consumer viewing experience by cutting ad load in half for truTV's prime-time programming this fall. Earlier this year, she expanded those plans to include TNT's three new dramas premiering later this year, an idea she joked was "suicide" to pitch to Levy. (He was ultimately on board, but admitted, "I'm not saying I was initially like, 'Let's go for it!'")
However, the company won't add any other networks to the mix until it can assess the impact of its truTV and TNT reduced ad load experiments.
"I think we've got to see how the marketplace reacts and how the ratings perform," Levy said. "We're going to have to do some listening. That's a lot to absorb. And then, what do you change? What do you enhance? What do you do differently?"
Look for Turner's first OTT offerings later this year
The company is making plans for Turner's first direct-to-consumer (i.e., OTT) offerings later this year, which will pull content from different sections of Turner's portfolio.
"As we look at our portfolio and libraries, what can we bring to the marketplace? It's not going to be our exact channels, because we're already doing that," said Levy, referring to the authenticated apps that already exist for networks like TNT and TBS. "We'd love to have two or three of them, and we're figuring out what that's going to be."
Samantha Bee isn't the only TBS late-night host making noise
Samantha Bee has been getting all the late-night buzz since Full Frontal with Samantha Bee debuted in February. But Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT and chief creative officer at Turner Entertainment Networks, also had high praise for his other late-night host, Conan O'Brien, who he said "is doing this thing that nobody else is doing" with his international trips to Afghanistan, Korea and Cuba. (Reilly said his four international specials next season will air in prime time.)
"This may sound highfalutin, but I truly believe that Conan will have the ability within the next couple of years to be the first true transmedia star," said Reilly, who sees the host making waves in both the linear and digital spaces.
"We just last week sat down to talk about how does this all begin to tie together?" said Reilly. O'Brien's production banner has several projects in the works, including a few programs that would spotlight rising comedians. Reilly sees these as primarily digital plays that could eventually move to the linear network. "I can see a real evolution that started last year," he said, predicting that within three years, O'Brien, whether on-camera or behind the scenes, "will truly have a foot in a lot of different worlds."
You'll see fewer series acquisitions but more films on TBS and TNT
TBS struck the mother lode by securing syndication rights to The Big Bang Theory, but no subsequent shows have been nearly as successful in syndication. So, Reilly is pivoting away from TV acquisitions in favor of more movie pickups.
"The average viewing time on an acquired movie is 40-plus minutes," he said. "You can sell that and get a lot of circulation with that. We softened on movies for a little while, but we're back very aggressively." The company has secured rights to five Marvel movies (including Avengers: Age of Ultron and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War), the Hunger Games and Divergent franchises, and Disney's hit live-action remakes of Cinderella and The Jungle Book.
The company is finally making money from social media
Turner is capitalizing on the social buzz from Samantha Bee and its other new shows with Launchpad, its new platform which monetizes social amplification and guarantees viewers for branded content via social.
"I think it's very key that, again, as you redefine the metrics of success, social and buzz is going to be part of it, but if we don't monetize it, then what does it mean?" said Levy.
Speciale, who has been using Launchpad for four months, said her branded content deals can have separate social campaigns and social financial proposals through Launchpad to guarantee views. "Everything that we're doing in branded content now has application on the platform with social," she said. "We can create a social conversation for the client with everything they do with Turner."
Turner is ready for some football
As Levy said in Adweek's cover story, Turner was in talks with the NFL about the next Thursday Night Football package but bowed out once it became clear the league wanted only a one- or two-year deal.
"We couldn't make that work from a numbers basis," Levy said. "We needed a more long-term deal for the cable operators, our cable contracts, hiring talent and production people. How do you hire all that for one season? It was unattainable for us."
But if and when the NFL is prepared to negotiate a more substantial Thursday night package, Turner is ready and willing to come back to the table. "If it ever came to the marketplace and there was an opportunity to buy a long term contract, we would certainly look at it," Levy said.