The State of TBS and TNT: What Kevin Reilly Will Have to Tackle

Former Fox entertainment head will take on a merged Michael Wright-Steve Koonin role at Turner

Last Updated: November 4, 2014 @ 7:19 AM

It’s been the industry’s $64,000 question for weeks: Will Kevin Reilly become the next big honcho at Turner Entertainment? The answer seems to be a resounding yes. As TheWrap reported earlier Monday, the former Fox and NBC entertainment chief is thisclose to inking a deal to take over the creative reins of two of Turner’s biggest cable networks, TBS and TNT.

TheWrap takes a look at Reilly’s biggest challenges:

Reilly will have to hit the ground running.
Among his biggest challenges is to level out the ratings at both TNT and TBS, and soon. Turner networks have seen a 10 percent drop in ratings for the quarter. While shows like “The Last Ship” and “Major Crimes” have done well for TNT, viewership is down significantly. TNT and TBS have both seen double-digit losses in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic. Total viewers are down as well, though not as dramatically. It’s worth noting that other top cable networks like History Channel and USA Network are also down.

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Getting used to cable TV again.
While he has some major hits on his resume, including critically acclaimed shows like “Nip/Tuck” and “The Shield,” Reilly could find himself in the middle of a steep learning curve after years in Network Land. The landscape has changed dramatically since his last cable job, with more and more non-network shows vying for the same eyeballs.

Doing more with less.
It’s entirely possible Reilly might also suffer from sticker shock. Budgets for cable shows are nowhere near what he’s become accustomed to at Fox. He can forget about his “American Idol” mega-sized spending allowances. Not to mention, he’s got a lot fewer hands on deck thanks to the massive layoffs at both networks.

Doing two jobs at once.
Reilly will also have brush up on his multi-tasking. He’ll be taking on not only his predecessor Michael Wright’s job, but also the job of longtime Turner Entertainment chief Steve Koonin, who abruptly left the company after 10 years to run the Atlanta Hawks NBA team.

Also read: Kevin Reilly Nearing Deal to Head Turner’s TNT, TBS

And finally, bringing TNT and TBS into the 21st Century:
Reilly will have to come up with a plan for cross-platform strategies, as well as finding a way to better monetize original programming.

On the flip side: Not everything is bleak.
TBS is home to three of basic cable’s Top ten original sitcoms with Adults 18-49: “Cougar Town,” “Sullivan & Son” and “Ground Floor.” And TNT won the summer and the third quarter as basic cable’s most-watched network. It also has six of the Top 10 summer series including “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Murder in the First” and “Perception.”

Reilly is no industry newbie.
He’s supervised and introduced several hit shows, including “Sleepy Hollow,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and “The Following,” which became the highest-rated broadcast drama of the 2012-13 season. “The Mindy Project,” another one of his babies, was the No. 1 new comedy of 2012-13 to be picked up for a second season. And then there’s “Glee,” a worldwide TV phenomenon in its early seasons.

Also read: John Mulaney Credits Former Fox Chief Kevin Reilly for Fixing His Sitcom

Whether or not Reilly will be able to turn things around at Turner remains to be seen. But if his past success is any indication, he could be just what Turner’s doctor ordered.