For the first time, Turner brought all of its networks together under one roof for its 2015-2016 upfront. That roof? The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
"When they planned this, they had to assume the Knicks were gonna suck," Charles Barkley chimed in early, and often.
That's how it started—and ended—with Barkley, Shaquille O'Neill, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson of TNT's Inside the NBA hosting a live, unscripted pre-show, halftime report and post-game wrap-up. Barkley also made news about his contract extension: Turner president David Levy "came over to my house, brought two bottles of wine and two bottles of tequila, and we killed them. My agent didn't get involved," Barkley said.
Donna Speciale, president of Turner ad sales, told clients Turner is "one unified portfolio representing 15,000 hours of premium content, on every screen, every platform … reaching 75 percent of all Americans."
"In this new world, dayparts are dead," Speciale told advertisers, who are increasingly buying branded content and pre-rolls, not traditional :30 commercial time.
Each brand presented itself in a unique way:
Adult Swim's presentation consisted of a sizzle reel with network stats: It's a top 3 network in the target demo, with 94 percent of the audience watching live. (Adweek talked with network president Christina Miller last week about the new slate.)
At TNT/TBS, Kevin Reilly, former head of programming for NBC and Fox, presented at his first Turner upfront. He promised a "proactive makeover of these two networks," doubling the number of original series over the next three years that will "blur the lines between entertainment and advertising."
Three new dramas are coming to TNT:
- Will, about a young William Shakespeare
- Animal Kingdom, "a sexy adrenaline rush"
- The Alienist, "a defining event series"
New comedies are coming to TBS, too, including Angie Tribeca, Wrecked, and The Group. Reilly called them "awesomely in your face." He also promised the slate will bring TBS's average age down from the current 42 (skewing male) "to the younger end, next to Adult Swim."
During the halftime report, the Inside the NBA guys pointed out who was in the crowd, including Sharon Stone, starring in TNT's Agent X; CNN's Wolf Blitzer; and Adult Swim's Jack McBrayer and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who did some insulting, mostly of Blitzer.
And back to the show:
truTV will get its first scripted comedy in Those Who Can't, a show centered around frustrated high school teachers produced by and starring members of the Denver-based comedy troupe The Grawlix. Billy Eichner took the stage to push his show, which is moving to the network: "I'm going to go home and watch shows on the Internet like a normal person! Eichner closed with his trademark yell.
CNN's Anderson Cooper made the pitch for the news network as well as for sister network HLN (before heading to Philadelphia to report on last night's Amtrak wreck).
Cooper called CNN "the original disrupter" that has "evolved once again."
"CNNGo is the most revolutionary product since, well, the invention of CNN," Cooper said of the app, which averages 85 minutes per session. Cooper said CNN would be on "100 million connected devices by next year."
The guys returned to finish off the presentation, touting Turner Sports coverage that spans the NBA, MLB and, for the first time, the NCAA Championship game, as well as the Final Four games, on TBS in 2016.
"We have the best job," said Barkley. "We get to watch basketball. We work for a great company. We're blessed."
Johnson then gave Shaq the last word: "Sharon Stone, will you marry me?"