Wright Named EVP, Head of Programming For Turner Trio


As part of a restructuring of Turner’s entertainment networks, Michael Wright has been promoted to the post of executive vice president, head of programming for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies, officials said Thursday.

Wright, who previously had been serving as senior vice president in charge of Turner Entertainment Networks’ Content Creation Group, will continue to be based in Los Angeles, overseeing all original programming for TBS, TNT and TCM.

His added duties now include oversight of program planning and scheduling for TBS and TNT, as the changes will consolidate original programming, program planning and scheduling into one division.

Wright said that the new structure will facilitate a more consistent and complementary programming strategy within Turner’s various networks.

“There’s a commitment to expanding the presence of original programming across the networks,” Wright said in an interview Thursday. “TNT is the farthest down that road, but I think as we go on you’ll see in a couple of years TBS will catch up to TNT.”

“More than that, what it (the reorganization) signifies is a recognition that it’s a good idea to have a consistency of strategy…across both the original programming and the acquired programming and all the programming, because they’re all working together towards the same goal which is to expand the reach of the network, get the brand out there, and really grow the whole thing as one whole,” he added. “You don’t want those parts of your network working at odds. You want them to work together.”

Added Wright, “From The Closer on, we’ve always looked at it as, how does whatever show we’re ordering or developing, how does this show fit within the broader portfolio of the network? The Closer was developed to be compatible with Law & Order.”

Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, Thursday also announced the promotions of Phil Oppenheim to senior vice president of program planning and scheduling for TBS and TNT; and Lillah McCarthy to senior vice president of original programming for TBS and TNT. Both will report to Wright.

“Michael Wright has proven himself to be one of the most talented executives in the industry, solidifying TNT and TBS’s reputations as major players when it comes to original programming,” Koonin said in a prepared statement. “By bringing the rest of the programming division under his supervision, we will be able to maximize the full strength of our portfolio and maintain a consistent creative and strategic approach to our programming decisions.”

Wright is has been responsible for all original programming for TNT, including The Closer, ad-supported cable’s No. 1 series of all time; Saving Grace, starring Oscar-winner Holly Hunter; Raising the Bar, the new Steven Bochco drama that set an ad-supported cable record as the most watched series launch of all time; Leverage, the new series starring Oscar winner Timothy Hutton that launched this past weekend with 5 million viewers; and the upcoming series Trust Me, with Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanagh.

Wright also oversees original programming for TBS, including The Bill Engvall Show, which finished its first year as ad-supported cable’s No. 1 original sitcom among adults 25-54; My Boys; and the late-night series Frank TV and 10 Items or Less. Wright has also been responsible for original specials on TBS and TNT, original programming ventures for TCM and original content for digital extensions for all three networks.

Wright joined the company in 2002 to head TNT’s original programming division. Under his auspices, the network scored major triumphs with such original films as the multiple-Emmy-winning Door to Door, The Ron Clark Story and The Librarian; multi-part events that included Into the West, The Company, The Grid and Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King; and specials like the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the annual Christmas in Washington. Wright began overseeing TBS original programming in 2005 and added TCM original programming to his duties in 2007.

Prior to his work for Turner Entertainment Networks, Wright served as vice president of movies and miniseries for CBS Productions and CBS Entertainment. 

Oppenheim has been serving as vice president of programming for TNT and TBS, where he has been extensively involved in various aspects of programming, from strategy to acquisition selection to scheduling. His duties have also included new media and Internet development for the networks. Previously, he was vice president of programming for TNT, working his way up from the positions of program executive and program coordinator, as well as editor of the TNT program guide. He was also instrumental in helping launch TCM, as well as the European versions of TNT. Oppenheim came to the company in 1989.

McCarthy joined TBS and TNT in 2006 and has been serving as vice president of series programming for the networks, focusing on the development and production of new comedy series for TBS and new drama series for TNT. She oversaw the development of such series as TNT’s Saving Grace, Raising the Bar, Leverage and Trust Me, as well as TBS’s The Bill Engvall Show and Frank TV. She previously served as an original series consultant and was instrumental in the development of TNT’s hit drama The Closer and TBS’s critically acclaimed comedy series My Boys.