Programming Chief Michael Wright Leaves TNT, TBS

Departure comes amid buyouts
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Michael Wright is departing his post as president and head of programming at TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies. The move comes as Turner initiates voluntary buyout offers to more 500 staffers as part of a company-wide cost-cutting plan.

A 12-year veteran of Turner, Wright originally took over programming for TNT in 2004 and by 2007 oversaw programming for all three networks. Just two days ago, TNT declared victory in the summer ratings race, finishing as the the No. 1 cable network in primetime with its original series averaging 5.6 million primetime viewers in Nielsen live-plus-seven ratings. Original dramas Rizzoli & Isles (7.6 million), Major Crimes (7.1 million) and The Last Ship (6.4 million) finished as the three most watched original cable dramas of the summer in live-plus-seven total viewers.

Wright is expected to stay on as a search for his replacement takes place. Among the available executives that could be considered for the role is Kevin Reilly, who stepped down in May from his post as entertainment chairman of Fox Broadcasting.

News of Wright’s departure follows a period of executive upheaval at Turner. In April, former Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin left the company and become CEO and minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks. Turner CEO Phil Kent retired at the end of 2013 and was succeeded by John Martin, former CFO of Time Warner, Turner’s parent company. 

Time Warner has, in recent years, shifted its focus to content, spinning off its print and cable-system operations and divorcing itself from digital brand AOL. The company most recently rebuffed an $85 billion purchase offer from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

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