GSN, preparing for the upfront season and launching a live late-night block, is also bringing a new affiliate-sales chief on board.
The network for games last week named Dennis Gillespie, a veteran of Superstation WGN and MTV Networks, as senior vice president of distribution. Gillespie, who starts next week, will fill the post left vacant when Jan Hatcher exited GSN last September. He will report to GSN president and CEO Rich Cronin.
Cronin worked with Gillespie years ago, when both were at MTVN.
“I interviewed a lot of people,” Cronin said. “There are some really strong candidates out there, but Dennis really rose to the top. And working together [in the past] was definitely a plus.”
Cronin was also impressed with Gillespie's track record at his most recent gig, as senior vice president of affiliate sales for Tower Distribution/Tribune Broadcasting, where he oversaw national sales for Superstation WGN. Under Gillespie's tenure, Superstation WGN's distribution increased from about 48 million homes to more than 70 million.
GSN is now in 62.7 million homes, and Gillespie's job is to continue increasing carriage for the standalone network, owned by Liberty Media and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
“We're starting to expand GSN into other platforms,” Cronin said. “Still, our core business is the cable-network business. Dennis's top priority is to get us from 62 [million] to 72 [million] to 82 [million] as fast as possible. … He doesn't have retransmission [consent], he doesn't have the big leverage that other networks have, but he has a very popular network, and we're very reasonably priced compared to a lot of big players, so there's a lot of upside here.”
Gillespie, who will be involved in GSN's nascent broadband initiative, looks forward to being reunited with Cronin.
“I think of Rich as being one of the most creative and fun minds in the business, and anytime you have an opportunity to work for someone like that, I think it's a terrific opportunity,” Gillespie said.
On March 7, kicking off the upfront season, GSN will have a party in New York City to promote “Playmania.” That late-night program block, airing midnight to 2 a.m., has two new live call-in game shows, 100 Winners and Quiznation, which premiere Feb. 20 and 23, respectively.
GSN is also transforming its Web site from a promotional platform where users can play along with TV shows to one that is a destination for online games.
“They're [the new Internet games] strictly content for GSN.com,” Cronin said.