Turner CEO says heavy Web exposure made company lose interest in reruns of ‘Modern Family’


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‘Modern Family’ co-creator and executive producer Steve Levitan has not been shy about voicing his concerns that the show’s exposure on the Web would hurt its long-term value and ratings. Last year he complained publicly on Twitter and with reporters about the hit ABC sitcom being available for free both on the network’s website and on Hulu.

Seems that Turner Broadcasting Chief Executive Phil Kent shares some of Levitan’s concerns. Speaking Tuesday afternoon at Citigroup’s Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference, Kent said Turner, parent of the cable network TBS, which buys lots of sitcom reruns, pulled out of bidding for ‘Modern Family’ for that very reason.


Turner, Kent said, ‘thought it was a little too prevalent on the Internet.’ NBC Universal’s USA Network did not share those same concerns, shelling out about $1.4 million for reruns of the show. TBS was said to have bid just over $1 million per episode for ‘Modern Family.’

One of the concerns of making shows available on multiple platforms is that the rerun value and appeal to viewers will be diminished.

So far, there are no signs of that happening, but down the road it is likely to become an issue or at least a negotiating ploy for buyers of reruns. Kent indicated that Turner is already negotiating terms in its deals for reruns that limit exposure on other platforms.

In a wide-ranging interview, Kent said he thinks there is a lot of media hysteria about consumers cutting the cord to their cable services in favor of trying to scavenge for content on the Web.

‘We just don’t see it,’ Kent said of all the stories about people starting to cut the cord to their cable service. He added that he didn’t think cord-cutting would be a ‘big problem’ anytime in the near future.

On the programming front, Kent expressed disappointment with the performance of the new CNN show ‘Parker Spitzer,’ which has not been setting the world on fire in terms of ratings. The political debate program features columnist Kathleen Parker and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer discussing the news of the day.


‘The show is not everything we want it to be at this point,’ Kent said, adding that the network is not happy with the execution of the program. Advertising revenue from CNN’s prime-time lineup, Kent said, accounts for only 10% of all of CNN’s revenues.

Kent also hinted to cable operators that he thinks Cartoon Network is underpriced and that Turner will be looking to increase the carriage fee.

‘Honestly, I don’t think we get fair value for that,’ Kent said. According to SNL Kagan, an industry research firm, Cartoon Network costs distributors about 18 cents per subscriber per month.

-- Joe Flint