Turner Upfront Slate Tries for Younger Viewers, Even Male/Female Split

Deal with Comcast includes dynamic ads

Without Steve Koonin at the helm for the first time in years, Turner is giving the floor to head of programming Michael Wright this morning. The networks are shifting focus, representatives for the network group said in prepared statements, in pursuit of younger audiences and a more balanced male-female demo skew. (At the moment Turner's flagship networks, TNT and TBS, skew female).

Also front and center during the presentation now that former ad sales chief David Levy runs the whole shooting match: Donna Speciale, president of Turner Broadcasting ad sales. "The integration of television, online and mobile content is accelerating, and with that, we are all moving quickly to evolve our advertising strategies," Speciale said in the release. It's an acknowledgement that many in the cable world are making, while broadcast tends to push back ("Programmatic buying is the gluten of advertising," Jimmy Kimmel told the ABC upfront audience. "Everyone is talking about it but nobody knows what it is.")

Wright has been at the company more than a dozen years, but it's only now that he's getting to make his mark. It's an interesting one, too: remember TNT's Frank Darabont-helmed Mob City last year? The noir theme seems to be one that Wright and company like, because right at the top of the docket is Public Morals, a new scripted series set in the 1960s from writer, director, producer and star Ed Burns. If that's the network's offering for men, Proof seems to be its offering for women: Jennifer Beals, Matthew Modine and Joe Morton (late of well-liked Syfy dramedy Eureka) star in a show about a surgeon (Beals) and a terminally ill billionaire (Modine) who team up to figure out if there's an afterlife.

In development, the network has projects from Vince Vaughn, Donnie Wahlberg—who seems to be everywhere these days—and The Blacklist's Joe Carnahan, among others.

On TBS, the new offerings that are pretty clearly male/female include Angie Tribeca, from Parks and Rec/The Office star and writer Rashida Jones, an Airplane!-esque spoof of the police procedurals that still dominate much of basic cable. For the ladies, there's Buzzy's, an ensemble workplace comedy about a barbershop, produced by Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, which will star Ashley Tisdale.

The other Turner news this week has to do with dynamic advertising: the cable group has struck a deal with Comcast for complete current and previous seasons of long-running shows on the networks—"stacking rights," as players in that market have been calling it. The deal enables Comcast to compete with streaming VOD services like Hulu and Netflix to make catch-up viewing available from the very beginning of a series.

The product, which Comcast has been shopping aggressively during this ad season, is a major step forward in ad service: no matter what episode of, say, Robot Chicken you watch, you will see the ads for that evening's episode of Robot Chicken. It may get tedious if you binge-watch a whole season, but it makes advertisers happy, and that's one reason you can binge-watch on VOD at all.