Just two weeks ago, TBS Superstation reeled in big ratings for its latest original movie, Red Water. Now it's shuttering its movie business to focus on series.
Network chief Steve Koonin said the move is part of his plan to reinvigorate the Superstation.
"By shifting [programming dollars] to light entertainment, reality-based shows, we're able to have more hours of programming in prime time," said the COO of TBS and TNT.
TBS gets big crowds for its fringe block of acquired comedies like Seinfeld and Friends, important parts of the off-net Non-Stop Comedy Block. When 8 p.m. comes around, though, TBS offers mostly acquired theatricals. If viewers don't like the movie, they reach for the remote.
So Koonin wants to make more originals match up well and save movies for the weekend. TBS will likely make non-scripted lifestyle and reality shows. Koonin himself admires shows like The Jamie Kennedy Experiment and MTV's Punk'd. But the network won't delve into scripted sitcoms.
"There have been 428 scripted sitcom in the last 14 years made by the Big Four," he said. "56 have gone four years." That is not a success rate he wants any part of.
So far, TBS has new redecorating competition House Rules on tap for October, and Koonin expects more new series to be ready for next summer.
TBS has been making about four or five original movies per year, and audiences have rewarded the efforts. Red Water, the Aug, 17 thriller, grabbed a 5.0 rating and 7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Last year's Atomic Twister scored a 5.9 rating and was cable's highest-rated original movie for the year.
Still, Koonin would rather go out with successes than with failures. He likens this decision to when he canceled WCW wrestling on TNT a few years ago. At the time, it was the net's highest-rated show.
Several staffers who worked on movies will be cut, including Tana Nugent-Jamieson, vice president of original programming, movies, and Director of Development Margie Moreno, although both will stick around until the spring.