TNT to Cut Ad Time in Dramas by Half, Network Boss Says

TCA 2016: “We can get out of this cluttered environment where you’re waiting for your content in between commercials,” TNT and TBS president Kevin Reilly tells reporters

TNT will begin cutting the number of minutes of ads in its original dramas by half in 2016.

Kevin Reilly, president of cable networks TNT and TBS, announced the plan Thursday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.

TNT will begin experimenting with the model in three new original dramas set to premiere this year. The plan will add an additional eight to 10 minutes of programming time per episode to those shows compared to the norm for hour-long, ad-supported dramas.

“TV is the best advertising delivery mechanism ever invented,” Reilly said during his executive session, adding, “but we have overstuffed the bird.”

Reilly — former head of FX, NBC and Fox — appeared at the tour for the first time since he took over TNT and TBS at the end of 2014. During his executive session, he touted his plan for rebranding the two networks.

A big chunk of that plan involves changing the advertising model. Parent company Turner has recently touted plans to begin running longer commercials and relying more heavily on ad integrations within shows. TruTV, another Turner network, has already begun reducing the number of minutes of advertising in its original series.

That shift toward integrated advertising is, according to Reilly, what will make it possible to reduce ad loads within original series.

“We can get out of this cluttered environment where you’re waiting for your content in between commercials,” Reilly said.

Reilly also touted the flood of original programming planned for the two networks. In addition to the three new original dramas currently scheduled for TNT this year, seven original series — six scripted comedies and one unscripted series — are slated to premiere on TBS in 2016.

The first of those comedies, “Angie Tribeca,” is scheduled to debut Jan. 17. Reilly was asked whether he thought marketing for the show, starring Rashida Jones and in the vein of “Police Squad,” had confused viewers.

“I think you’re right, frankly,” Reilly said, adding that the initial campaign was very tongue-in-cheek and was not overt about what kind of show “Angie Tribeca” will be. “I think a lot of people got it because we were really clever, and I think a lot of people said, ‘I don’t know what that is.'”

He then tamped down ratings expectations for the debut. “I don’t know what it’s going to premiere with,” he said. “There will be a learning curve.”

TBS, according to Reilly, was in greater need of a major overhaul when he joined. The network continues to be among cable’s highest rated, but a big chunk of that success comes from its deal to air reruns of “The Big Bang Theory,” TV’s most-watched comedy.

Reilly indicated that the network will rely less on such syndication acquisitions in the future.

“If there were another ‘Big Bang Theory’ out there, I’d buy it tomorrow,” he said. “That doesn’t really exist.”

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