Turner Networks Developing Shows Their Own Way

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Armed with a hefty original programming budget, Turner Network Television and TBS Superstation announced the development of numerous original movies and reality series for the upcoming season.

But neither channel has committed to adding an original scripted show.

The two networks will benefit from a $350 million original programming budget over the next two years, Turner Entertainment Group president Mark Lazarus said at an upfront presentation here last week.

No. 1 anyway

Network executives said part of that pot could help finance potential scripted series. TNT's last original skein, Witchblade, was cancelled in 2002.

But for the 2003-04 season, the TNT and TBS schedules will largely reflect the status quo, with an influx of original and theatrical movies as well as acquired content.

Not that the strategy hasn't been working: TNT and TBS Superstation finished first and second, respectively, in reaching adults aged 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 during first-quarter 2003.

On the original series front, Steve Koonin, executive vice president and COO for both networks announced the fall debut on TBS of House Dreams, a home-renovation competition show sponsored by Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, as well as a fourth season of the TBS series Ripley's Believe It or Not.

The rest of the networks' original programming output comes from the film front.

Minis galore

On TBS, such original movies as Evil Never Dies, a Frankenstein-style thriller starring Thomas Gibson (Dharma & Greg) and Katherine Heigl (Roswell); Red Water, the tale of a bull shark terrorizing a small Louisiana town; and comedy National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Family Reunion, will screen over the next year.

For its part, TNT plans a number of miniseries and movies featuring such talent as Jeremy Sisto in the title role of Caesar, Peter Falk in Wilder Days and Chris Noth in Bad Apple. Additionally, the network has scheduled remakes of Salem's Lot, featuring Rob Lowe and Andre Braugher, and Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl, starring Patricia Heaton and Jeff Daniels.

'Proof of life'

In terms of acquisitions, Koonin also said TBS has extended its deal for Seinfeld
with Columbia TriStar Television through 2011. The show anchors the network's afternoon/early evening "Non-Stop Comedy Block," which will house Everybody Loves Raymond
in July 2004.

Koonin also trumpeted the lineup of theatricals making their broadcast-window premieres on TNT this year, including Proof of Life
(June), The Wedding Planner
(July), Antitrust
(November), Swordfish
(a three-play in November) and Along Came a Spider
(a three-play in December).

TBS also has a slew of world broadcast-window premieres in the months ahead, including such titles as The Patriot
(June 8), Little Nicky
(June 27), Save the Last Dance
(October) and Rush Hour 2
(first quarter 2004).

Koonin also announced the September launch of a West Coast feed for TBS. With the exception of live sports programming, which will air simultaneously on both feeds, most of TBS's programming will then air on a three-hour delay to accommodate viewers in the Pacific time zone.

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