Kevin Reilly promises major makeover for TNT and TBS

Kevin Reilly says he's doing a major makeover of TBS and TNT

Cable networks TBS and TNT are getting a major makeover under their new leader Kevin Reilly.

The plans include a “major TBS re-brand,” and “a shift in focus” for TNT’s original dramas, Turner Entertainment said in a statement released Wednesday just ahead of its upfront advertiser presentation at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.

Reilly said he intends to revamp the brand identity of the channels and add some edgier shows to the mainstream fare they have depended on in the past.

“We’ll double the number of our original series on TBS and TNT over the next three years,” he said. “And we'll sharpen the point of view and be even more adventurous in our programming choices.”

Although TBS and TNT are perennially among the most-watched cable networks, they have not generated the kind of buzzed-about series seen on FX and AMC. Reilly was hired late last year by Turner, a unit of media giant Time Warner Inc., to change that.

Reilly is the former entertainment chief for Fox Broadcasting Co. His final development season at the network included “Empire,” the biggest hit to break out on broadcast network TV in several years.

He said his new task is to prepare the Turner channels for the ongoing audience shift from live or “linear” TV viewing to online streaming and video on demand. Reilly believes that as people do less passive TV viewing, there will be a greater need for Turner to have distinctive shows that viewers will seek out through digital platforms.

TBS talk show host Conan O’Brien said the shift is already far along in the late-night arena where he competes. “When a fan comes up to me and talks about something they’ve seen me do, I now assume that they’ve seen it online,” he told The Times.

Reilly will need more than a few shows to make the transformation for the TBS and TNT prime-time lineups. He said he expects viewers and advertisers to notice the difference by next year’s upfront.

Reilly has already ordered pilots with his new vision in mind, including “Will,” about a young William Shakespeare, created by Baz Luhrmann’s writing partner Craig Pearce; and “Animal Kingdom,” a crime drama set in a surf community, from executive producers John Wells and Jonathan Lisco.

He has also picked up an eight-part drama series, “The Alienist,” based on the bestselling 1994 crime novel by Caleb Carr set in New York City's Gilded Age.

On the comedy side, TBS is getting a pilot from O’Brien and “The Office” executive producer Greg Daniels about a support group for people who believe that they were abducted by aliens.

TBS has also given a series order to “Wrecked,” a single-camera comedy from the writing team of Justin Shipley and Jordan Shipley about people stranded on a deserted island.

The current program pipeline for the fall includes a previously announced scripted comedy from former “Daily Show” correspondents Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, which is now called “The Detour.”

A topical comedy show to be hosted by Bee will target the late-night audience, based on a teaser that was shown to advertisers at the upfront. But Reilly said afterward that the weekly series could end in up prime time when it debuts this year.

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