At the start of her 2018 pitch to advertisers, Turner president of ad sales Donna Speciale promised, “Today will be different; it has to be.”
And while the upfront did include some return bits—”This is the third year we’ve been together,” CNN host Anderson Cooper said to Conan O’Brien and Shaquille O’Neill. “Always fresh ideas here at Turner,” O’Brien joked—Speciale and Turner chief creative officer Kevin Reilly reminded buyers of what’s worked for them in the past year alone.
Specialie said “100 percent” of audience-based buying partnerships “have shown positive ROI” for brands.
Products like Turner Ignite—including the just-launched Ignite Studios, Courageous, Turner Omni-Channel and the industrywide software platform Open AP—are meant to bring brands closer to Turner’s audience.
Daveed Diggs, who stars in the new TNT drama Snowpiercer, opened this morning’s event with a rap called “Tell Me a Story.” Snoop Dogg, host of Snoop Dogg Presents The Joker’s Wild, closed out the presentation with a mashup of some of his not-ready-for-daytime classics, including “Gin and Juice.”
The hour-and-45-minute presentation showcased a few new shows but leaned heavily on the renewals of programs across TBS, TNT, TruTV, CNN, AdultSwim and Cartoon Network.
“I think we’re supposed to be here getting advertisers and stuff,” The Last O.G. star Tiffany Haddish joked. “But if you need a spokesperson, I’m really good at it. Ask Groupon. I just need to know what you’re selling.” Her co-star, Tracy Morgan, took the stage later.
Samantha Bee made her pitch to advertisers for a new game she’ll be incorporating into Full Frontal called “This Is Not a Game, the Game.”
“It might be the biggest, dumbest thing we’ve gotten ourselves into,” she said of the project which is meant to get voters to register for the midterm elections.
It’s been 25 years since O’Brien did his first late-night talk show host audition for NBC. Still, the TBS host told the crowd he’s “the most excited and energized I have ever been in my entire career.”
“I credit that to my team, TBS and a cocktail of Prozac, Klonopin and a generic brand of estrogen,” he said.
“I have been blessed with a 25-year TV career to do whatever stupid things my writers think of,” O’Brien said, calling his new deal with TBS “a unique joint venture.” His late-night show, Conan, shifts to a new 30-minute format next year as part of the new multiplatform deal.
“I look forward to seeing you next year when I walk this shit back,” O’Brien joked as he left the stage.
Reilly shared that two of TNT’s biggest hits, Claws and Animal Kingdom, have brought the median age of TNT’s viewer down 15 years. He also announced a new TNT Suspense Collection, including a limited series based on the Black Dahlia true-crime story helmed by Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and starring Chris Pine .
The biggest sports news—beyond upfront cameos from 7’1″ Shaquille O’Neal—was programming around Turner’s latest sports acquisition, soccer’s UEFA Champions League. Kate Abdo was named studio host for coverage, beginning with the upcoming 2018-19 season. All games from the European league will air on Turner’s linear networks as well as on new streaming service Bleacher Report Live.
At one point, Shaq came on stage and played goalie as former NBA great turned Turner Soccer analyst Steve Nash took shots on goal. Shaq went one for three in blocked shots.
Among Turner’s other networks, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network got video montages with a mix of audience data, TruTV’s president Chris Linn touted his network’s “youngest and richest audience in comedy entertainment” and CNN’s Cooper was joined by his colleague Chris Cuomo, who is getting his own prime-time show starting June 4.
“In the last 18 months, we’ve seen challenges to the facts like never before,” Cooper said. “Millions of people seek us out as a trusted source of news and information, and consumers trust our brand.”