Marketing

TNT Scores With 'West,' 'Closer'

6/17/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

Turner Network Television last week landed a powerful one-two ratings punch with its original productions, The Closer and Into the West.

The Closer — starring Kyra Sedgwick as a CIA-trained Atlanta detective brought in to head a special unit of the Los Angeles Police Department that handles sensitive, high-profile murder cases — averaged a 5.9 cable-universe household rating and a 4.8 national rating (5.2 million viewers) for its June 13 premiere. According to Turner Broadcasting System Inc. officials, that made The Closer the highest-rated cable series premiere ever, topping the 5.7 household rating posted by the July 11, 2004 bow of USA Network's The 4400.

(Turner officials conceded that some premiere installments of South Park pulled in higher ratings, but Comedy Central was available in many fewer homes at the time.)

Presented commercial-free, courtesy of presenting sponsor Audi, the premiere of The Closer also drew 2.5 million adults 18 to 49 and 3.0 million adults 25 to 54, outdelivering such broadcast-network shows as ABC's The Scholar, CBS's 48 Hours and Yes, Dear and NBC's Dateline, according to Turner.

“We anticipated success and we're very pleased with it,” said TNT and TBS executive vice president and general manager Steve Koonin. “It has a great lead character that's uniquely positioned in television; she's brilliant and beautiful, but also vulnerable. It's a character that resonates with both men and women.”

Into the West, the Steven Spielberg executive-produced, six-installment limited series, garnered an impressive 4.9 cable rating during its June 10 debut, with primetime replays over the next two days that averaged a 3.2 and 3.1 rating, respectively. Sources said TNT had guaranteed a 3.0 household rating average for each of the three primetime weekend runs.

Koonin, who said the marks were above expectations, declined to address ratings-guarantee queries.

The project, which carried a reported $100 million price tag, is one of the most ambitious original programming undertakings for the medium and Turner. Koonin believes it will be able to maintain its ratings momentum throughout its run.

“We're very bullish on the show,” Koonin said. “We think the episodes continue to deliver creatively and we think the 21 million households that came to watch this week will be back.”

The June debuts of Into the West, The Closer and the July bow of Wanted mark a shift in the drama network's programming strategy from one based mostly on acquired fare like Law & Order and theatricals.

“We don't believe that a show makes a brand,” Koonin said. “First you brand the network, you program to that and then you put original programming on where you have strength.”