After growing up wanting to be a film director and studying theatre arts at the University of Florida, Chris Linn got his start in the entertainment industry working his way up the ranks at Nickelodeon. Following a stint as executive VP of programming and head of production for MTV, Linn joined truTV in August 2013.
Since taking over the programming reins at truTV, Linn launched an extensive “Way More Fun” rebranding in October 2014 that leans heavily on comedy, including series Billy On the Street and Adam Ruins Everything. The network has since found a younger and more educated and affluent audience, with the 18-34 demo up 23% in the fourth quarter over the prior year. Linn most recently moved truTV into scripted fare with Those Who Can’t, which has been renewed for a second season.
An edited version of Linn’s conversation with B&C contributing editor Luke McCord follows.
Is there a show you view as the turning point for truTV’s rebrand?
I would say Impractical Jokers was kind of canary in the coalmine for us. That was the one show that had broken away from truTV’s reality roots, and we saw the audience would go there easily with us and were super passionate. What’s amazing about Jokers, and all of our shows, is we have real fans that engage and really connect. We don’t just have viewers. There was just a voracious appetite for all things Jokers and still is into season 5. That set the direction.
What response have you gotten from advertisers about the coming reduction in primetime commercials?
It goes into effect in the fourth quarter, so we’ll see audience response then, but we’re definitely seeing positive responses from advertisers. Anything that helps de-clutter the air so that you’re delivering a more premium experience for viewers is always a great thing, but it’s also creating a more premium environment for the advertising to live.
How have you used the promotional platform March Madness offers truTV?
March Madness is amazing because of the influx of new viewers that we get. What was great this year was the volume of content we could customize around it. We also for the second time had a responsive social campaign around the phenomenon that tends to occur each March. A lot of people are searching for truTV… This year we had a slightly different take on it. It was called “truTV Is a Thing,” and it allowed us to kind of own the fact that we’re starting to break through.
Is there too much good TV?
There’s more ‘good TV’ than there’s ever been before, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s raising the creative bar for everybody, which is exciting for those of us who love TV and love making TV.
What was your favorite project you worked on before truTV?
Probably the biggest, loudest thing I’ve worked on was Jersey Shore at MTV. There’s no denying the excitement that comes from working on something that’s impacting pop culture and that’s resonating in pop culture, for better or worse. I love the shows I worked on at Nickelodeon when I was younger. I worked on this show Legends of the Hidden Temple, which was this game show on Nickelodeon. Now when I talk to assistants in the building here and I tell them I worked on Legends, they act like I’m a movie star. They have such love for it.