Andrew Heller, who just oversaw the launch of Turner South,
has been promoted to president of domestic distribution for Turner Broadcasting System
Inc., in charge of affiliate sales and marketing for the programmer's 10 cable networks,
officials said last week.
Heller, who joined TBS in 1998, most recently served as
executive vice president of Turner Network Sales and Turner Home Satellite.
In addition to getting Turner South, the first regional
entertainment network, off the ground last month, Heller will now coordinate the April 1
debut of Boomerang, the Cartoon Network animated spinoff.
Heller, a veteran of Time Warner Cable and Home Box Office,
said that initially, he is focusing on continuing the distribution push for Cartoon --
which, he added, is now in nearly 60 million homes -- as well as rolling out Turner South.
The new regional service has roughly 1 million subscribers,
most of them from MediaOne Group Inc. in Atlanta. Its target market is 6 million homes in
Heller played it down, but his promotion came less than one
week after William Grumbles, TBS Inc.'s president of worldwide distribution, announced
that he was retiring. "I wouldn't say I'm replacing Bill," Heller said.
In response to the massive consolidation of cable
operators, Heller restructured the affiliate-sales forces for TNS and THS this year, using
a model that assigned teams to each major MSO, in addition to their duties on a regional
"That was in recognition that 85 percent of the
business is now under eight or nine affiliates," Heller said. "It's important to
make sure you focus on them."
Distribution for several services that fall under Heller's
wing, such as CNNfn, has experienced sluggish growth. Heller said he expects that to pick
up as the deployment of digital cable, which has been slower than expected, picks up.
He added that he is now working on a sales pitch and rate
card for Boomerang, and he expects to start talking with MSOs about the new network at
least by the Western Show in December. It will be offered for analog and digital carriage.
Heller is in the unusual position of having to pitch
networks to one of TBS Inc.'s corporate siblings at Time Warner Inc., Time Warner Cable.
But he claimed that the corporate ties don't give him an inside advantage over other
programmers looking for carriage. For example, Time Warner Cable systems still aren't
carrying Turner South.
"I've worked for three different Time Warner
divisions, and they are all independent and have their own budgets to meet," Heller
said. "Our Time Warner Cable negotiations are at arm's length."
Heller, based in Atlanta, reports to Steven Heyer, TBS
Inc.'s president and chief operating officer.