TNT Budgets $800M for Original Programming7/25/1999 8:00 PM Eastern
Pasadena, Calif. -- Turner Network Television will invest
more than $800 million over the next five years in the development and production of
original movies, miniseries, original dramatic series and an expanded slate of nonfiction
specials, TNT president Brad Siegel said at the recent Television Critics Association
press tour here.
"TNT is enjoying an extraordinarily good year
delivering the most desirable audience segments in key demos," he said. "This,
fortunately, put us in the enviable position of having a significant amount of money to
aggressively reinvest in the four entertainment-programming cornerstones that highlight
our schedule and that will fuel our growth into the next 10 years."
TNT is budgeting for original dramatic series -- a new
foray for the service. At TNT's upfront in April, Siegel said he had a batch of hour-long
dramatic shows in development. He cited Home Box Office's The Sopranos as a model
for the kind of quality series he wanted to do.
TNT is also increasing the number of nonfiction specials it
has in the works.
The network just aired Moment of Impact: The Story of
the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs,and next month, it will premiere Family
Values: The Mob & The Movies, about the cinema and the audience's fascination with
In November, the network premieres Medal of Honor, about
soldiers who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor.
For next year, TNT has in development a special, On
Hallowed Ground,on the culture of street basketball. It will center on the
Entertainer Basketball Classic, the playground tournament played annually at Rucker Park
Also for next year, TNT will team up with the
producer/director of House Party, Reginald Hudlin, to do Shafted!, a special
on the impact of "blaxploitation" movies in the 1970s.
"These nonfiction specials underscore TNT's focus on
compelling stories and contemporary subject matter, which is a big change from the kind of
documentary specials that focused on movies and were movie-club-oriented on the past, and
from older movies and older subject matter," Siegel said.
TNT's sister service, TBS Superstation, unveiled its plans
at the TCA tour to do a remake of 1952 Western classic film High Noon,which
originally starred Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. The remake doesn't have a director yet,
and it hasn't been cast, but it is slated to air next June.
"High Noon will be our very first
original-movie Western, and it's a genre that our viewers love," TBS senior vice
president of original programming Jim Head said.
TBS, which premiered its first made-for-TV movie in March,
also added three new titles to its slate of original movies in development: Philip
Margolin's After Dark,a courtroom drama based on the best-selling novel; Sweepers,the story of an ex-Navy SEAL and CIA assassin who seeks revenge on an admiral for an
incident in Vietnam; and Nowhere to Land, about a plane carrying a deadly nerve-gas
device that is set to explode before it can reach a nearby landing strip.
At the Turner Broadcasting System Inc. session at the TCA,
Cartoon Network said it will launch its classic animation spinoff channel, Boomerang, next
April Fool's Day.
Boomerang will be a 24-hour service airing classic cartoons
from the Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. library, such as Yogi Bear and Huckleberry
Hound. The service will be aimed at baby boomers and their younger kids, and 90
percent of its content will not be duplicated on Cartoon.
Cartoon Network Worldwide president Betty Cohen declined to
say how many subscribers she expects Boomerang to have at launch. But she said it is a
service that can help operators to market digital set-tops to consumers.
Cartoon also announced that it is forming Cartoon Network
Studios, an independent production facility to develop and produce original animation
expressly for the network. Cohen said she is currently looking for space for the operation
in Los Angeles. Among the series that will be produced at the new studio are The
Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo.
"Centralizing our series-production units is going to
offer us a lot more production flexibility and allow us to meet the growing demand that
all of the Cartoon Networks worldwide are experiencing for original programming,"
Cohen said. "We hope to be in our location here in L.A. by the end of the year."
Cartoon, which is investing $450 million in original
programming over the next five years, is adding two new original shows to its lineup this
fall: Mike, Lu & Og, a half-hour series about a sophisticated New York girl who
goes to a secluded island as an exchange student; and Courage, The Cowardly Dog,about a timid dog who must guard an elderly couple from paranormal threats. Both
series debut Nov. 12.
In other TCA tour news, Turner has come up with a name for
its new nonfiction women's network: The Women's Network. CNN Productions president Pat
Mitchell, who is heading up the new service, said Turner was looking for a name with
simplicity, inclusiveness and tradition.
She also pointed out that Time Warner Inc. vice chairman
Ted Turner has a history of giving his networks straightforward names -- hence the moniker
Cartoon Network for an animation channel. "Ted likes to call them what they
are," she added.
The Women's Network is set to launch early next year.