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Turner chief Kevin Reilly talks about reinventing TBS and TNT in this 'hairy' time in TV

Turner chief Kevin Reilly talks about reinventing TBS and TNT in this 'hairy' time in TV
Turner Entertainment Chief Kevin Reilly says TBS and TNT are embracing new and creative advertising opportunities on the networks. (Mike Windle / Getty Images for Turner)

Turner Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly says the road to re-branding TBS and TNT to be more suitable for the shifting TV environment will take "the better part of three years to complete."

Reilly took the stage Thursday at the Television Critics Assn. media tour in Pasadena to discuss the road ahead in reinventing the networks.

"We're pushing back," Reilly told reporters.  "We are going to be making some moves that are going to be very significant."

The transformation includes a substantial increase in spending on original content, integration of digital properties with the linear networks and a slimmer ad load in its drama series to enhance the viewer experience.

Just over a year into his new post, which also consists of serving as president of TNT and TBS, Reilly has been vocal about his plans to overhaul the networks.

He acknowledged that ratings have been down at both networks -- pointing out that's the case at just about every cable network, which he attributed to Nielsen's "antiquated" measuring system -- and said the new strategy will better position both networks.

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Reilly, the former head of programming at Fox, told the news media on Thursday that Turner Broadcasting parent Time Warner support his ambitions for the networks as a means to keep up with changing television business models.

"In three years TBS and TNT will be radically different businesses than they are today," Reilly said. "It's going to be a hairy couple of years in the business in general. And we're going to feel it, but we'll get through."

Reilly said much as $1 billion is being supplemented to existing programming budgets across both networks during the next three years. Part of the efforts to reinvigorate its slate also entails moving on without perennial favorites such as "Rizzoli & Isles." The upcoming seventh season of the buddy-cop drama will be its last.

There are also plans to tweak the ad load on series to improve viewers' experience. Saying cable has "overstuffed the bird" in terms of its ad ratio, Reilly said there are plans for three of TNT's upcoming dramas to have eight to 10 more minutes program time from a potential 50% reduction of ad load per hour.

"It's going to take us some time to get this right and across all the hours on the network," Reilly said. "But next season starts the beginning of real change in creating a better viewing experience on the linear channel."

Reilly also said announcements would be made at Turner's upfront presentation to advertisers about some new proprietary technology and platforms that will roll out in the next couple of months.

Turner's hand in the digital space is a top priority. Reilly confirmed the company's soft relaunch of digital-content venture Super Deluxe. The downtown-L.A.-based operation, which Reilly described as a "tech product incubator and digital content for mobile first," has about 45 employees and has already generated 12 million views in its few weeks since going live. The venture originally launched in 2007 as a comedy portal.

Reilly also spoke of eLeague,  a new eSports business, which features two 10-week seasons and a game on TV.

I tweet about TV (and other things) here: @villarrealy

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