Turner’s Martin Shakes The Ranks Up for 2020

Programming Changes Could Lie Ahead
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Less than six months after taking the helm of Turner Broadcasting System, CEO John Martin continues to put his stamp on the popular cable networks group, mapping out what appears to be a sweeping reorganization that could lead to more staff changes.

Dubbed “Turner 2020” — for the year the programmer will turn 50 — the initiative will build on past efforts and introduce new programs to drive growth.

“We’ve been shifting resources already, and I would ask that you think carefully about how and where to get the greatest return on the assets you control,” Martin wrote in a memo to employees. “This may mean staff changes. In fact, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t.”

Just what Martin meant by that is unclear, and Turner executives have declined comment. But the home of such cable programming icons as TNT, TBS and CNN has been in a ratings slump lately, in part because of some channels’ reliance on older syndicated broadcast shows.

Already Turner has lost several key managers. In April, former Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin left to become CEO of the NBA Atlanta Hawks, and CNN chief operating officer and head of ad sales Greg D’Alba resigned. In March, Turner Animation Young Adults & Kids Media division president Stu Snyder and longtime Turner Broadcasting chief research officer Jack Wakshlag left.

Whether more heads will roll remains to be seen.

Most observers believe Turner president David Levy, who was named to that post in August, is relatively safe. But the jury is out on TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies president and head of programming Michael Wright.

Wright is under pressure for the ratings slump and faces competition for TNT’s NBA programming from Fox Sports. At the same time, Levy has said publicly that Wright is a candidate to replace Koonin.

Some observers have noted that Fox Broadcasting chairman of entertainment Kevin Reilly’s decision to step down from that post at the end of June has added some uncertainty to Wright’s future — losing out to Reilly for Koonin’s job could force Wright to leave.

But others said they believe the recent management turmoil is merely a function of having a new boss. Martin joined Turner in January after a five-year stint as CFO of Time Warner Inc., and new executives typically prefer to assemble their own teams.

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