Broadcaster Magazine

AOL Time Warner forms new TV network group

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  • AOL Time Warner announced Tuesday that it is merging the WB broadcast network and the Turner cable networks under one group led by the WB’s chief executive, Jamie Kellner. Terence McGuirk, a 28-year Turner veteran who has been chairman of Turner Broadcasting, will become a part-time vice chairman under Kellner.

    The move creates the nation’s largest television group, with the WB, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, the Cartoon Network and all of the CNN networks under Kellner’s watch.

    Kellner founded the WB in 1993 with Warner Bros. and the Tribune Company. He was president of the Fox Broadcasting Co. from 1986 to 1993. The move puts Kellner in charge of all the properties previously controlled by executives at Turner Broadcasting, including the cable channels CNN, TBS, TNT, The Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies.

    CNN, once the undisputed leader in cable news, has seen its viewership drop due to increased competition with Fox News Channel, CNBC and MSNBC.

    Kellner, with no direct news experience, said he would leave editorial judgments at CNN to the management there. He’s most interested in ways to better promote the news networks, which executives have regarded as a weakness.

    AOL executives said the merger would create a new television group that reached virtually every audience demographic from children with the Cartoon Network to teenagers with WB and older viewers with CNN.

    The plan, AOL Time Warner executives said, is to merge the advertising, marketing and programming operations of all the channels, allowing for more cross-promotions both on the air and over the Internet using the resources of America Online. The resulting television entity will most resemble the channel lineup at Viacom Inc., which is now able to reach younger viewers with Nickeldeon, teenagers with the MTV networks and older viewers with CBS.

    The new AOL unit is also promising to start new channels and is likely to become a more direct competitor to the Viacom lineup.

    In his new role, Kellner will assume many of the duties previously held by Terence McGuirk, a longtime executive with the Turner Broadcasting Company. AOL Time Warner executives said McGuirk had requested a less active role in the company’s operations for personal reasons. He was named vice chairman.

    Steven Heyer, who had been chief operating officer for Turner, decided to leave the company in the wake of Kellner’s appointment.