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Upfronts 2018: Turner highlights multiplatform connection for brands

At its upfront presentation to advertisers, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. put its full portfolio on display and devoted plenty of attention to video on demand, streaming, live events, digital and social media.

Donna Speciale, president of ad sales, exhorted media buyers to think beyond the traditional run of 30-second ad units. "Make no mistake — TV matters, but when you only buy TV, you are missing value and opportunity," said Speciale. "Our industry spends a lot of time talking about the future, but talk isn’t action, and we are not changing fast enough.”

She said the creation, planning and buying of media must change to reflect how content is being consumed today in order to trigger the best returns for clients: "TV ratings are no longer our sole success metric, and they shouldn’t be yours either. We shouldn’t just value TV, but the whole ecosystem."

While the industry remains trapped by C3 ratings, Turner is not, according to Kevin Reilly, president of TNT (US) and TBS (US) and chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment. C3 refers to the ratings for average commercial minutes in live programming plus total playback of three days.

Reilly pointed to a pair of examples with TNT's "The Alienist," the top cable drama launch in 2018 and "The Last O.G.," TBS’ top new comedy cable launch. Reilly said "we untethered ourselves from linear marketing strategies," resulting in big audience advances.

While the linear viewing of the first episode of "The Alienist" totaled 6 million, the number eventually reached 51 million when events in New York and Los Angeles, previews during Turner’s coverage of March Madness and other promotions were accounted for. Similarly, "The Last O.G." jumped from 4.2 million viewers to around 20 million when other platforms came into play.

A first-mover in TV audience targeting with TargetingNOW in 2013, Turner adopted a new solution called AudienceNOW to evolve from traditional TV ad models to pure audience-based models. Now, Turner is expanding its commitment to an omnichannel approach by extending AudienceNOW to include cross-screen targeting for its digital properties that run full episodes. Through a single audience target selection, advertisers can increase the reach of their previously linear-only campaign, engage with consumers across premium digital and over-the-top streaming environments, and evaluate accredited, brand-safe and credible audience impressions on all screens.

The company is also looking to bolster its branded content creation capabilities for its entertainment fare.

In addition, Turner announced that it is continuing its commitment to reducing commercial load, which began with truTV (US) in 2015 and has moved into select segments within a few other networks. The limited commercial interruption will encompass truTV’s entire total-day programming lineup by 2021 and will be incorporated into CNN (US) later this year.

After the event, Speciale said the practice will begin on the news network in the fourth quarter on a handful shows, potentially with "The Lead with Jake Tapper" on weekdays and "State of the Union" on Sundays.

On the programming side, TBS has renewed new seasons of a dozen comedies. For TNT's dramas, Reilly touted "Animal Kingdom" and the upcoming sophomore season of "Claws," which have lowered the audience’s median age viewer by 15 years. He also looked ahead to sci-fi and mystery franchises. The former will come under the heading of "Ridley Scott Presents," a collection of stories from the genre master, which Reilly said after the presentation would likely premiere in spring 2019.

"The Suspense Collection," meanwhile, will bow with a limited-series mystery "One Day She’ll Darken" from "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins and thriller "Tell Me Your Secrets."