New strategy for TBS and TNT: Less comedies, more reality shows

The logos of TBS and TNT. (Image: AT&T/WarnerMedia/Handout)

AT&T will move toward reprogramming two of its biggest linear TV channels — TBS and TNT — with a renewed focus on unscripted programming, the company’s chief operating executive said on Friday.

“We all know that general entertainment is not performing as well,” John Stankey, AT&T’s Chief Operating Officer, said in an interview with trade publication Deadline Hollywood. “We will continue to invest in them but will see content shift.”

Stankey said consumers tend to demand one of three things from traditional linear, or “live,” television networks: News, sports and “unscripted programming,” industry jargon for reality television. AT&T’s WarnerMedia division, which operates the former Turner channels, invests heavily in news through CNN but doesn’t make a sizable investment in sports outside of NBA league games, college basetball games and fringe wrestling shows.

It has dabbled in reality television shows through its Tru TV channel with shows like “Impractical Jokers,” “Adam Ruins Everything” and “At Home with Amy Sedaris.” Some of these programs air in repeats on other WarnerMedia channels, including TBS and TNT, while talent from certain series have been tapped to star in game shows and other unscripted programming across the AT&T landscape.

For scripted series and other programming, Stankey said the focus is on the company’s forthcoming streaming service HBO Max, which will incorporate shows and movies from various studios and channels owned by AT&T, including Warner Bros. Studios, Warner Bros. Domestic Television, CNN, and HBO Studios. It will also contain a mixture of licensed shows and movies, including “South Park” from ViacomCBS and various movie studios that have distribution deals with HBO and sister network Cinemax.

AT&T is hoping to target its 170 million paying customers across wireless phone, traditional landline phone, satellite TV, over-the-top streaming TV and other services to drum up interest in HBO. Currently, more than 30 million households receive the channel either through cable, satellite or direct from AT&T via the HBO Now app.

Deadline Hollywood: AT&T eyes more unscripted programming for Turner channels