EXCLUSIVE: Brett Weitz continues to expand his turf at WarnerMedia. Eight months after he was promoted from EVP Programming for TBS to General Manager of TNT and TBS, Weitz is also taking on oversight of truTV. With the new title of General Manager of TNT, TBS & TruTV, he will now manage all three networks and oversee their creative executive teams and development in New York and Los Angeles. Concurrently, Thom Hinkle, most recently EVP Original Programming at TBS, has been upped to head of original content for all three networks, bringing TNT and truTV into his role.
Weitz’s promotion, part of a contract re-up that had been in the works for months, follows the May contract extension of Kevin Reilly, who added truTV to his portfolio as president of TNT, TBS and truTV and Chief Content Officer, HBO Max, leading to the departure of truTV president Chris Linn and layoffs at the network.
“Brett and Thom transformed TBS into an Emmy Award-winning, premier comedy destination, and will continue to shape the identities of all three of these top-rated networks,” said Reilly, to whom Weitz reports. “Their unconventional risk taking combined with their strong industry relationships will continue to shepherd the evolution of TBS, TNT and truTV.”
As EVP Programming for TBS, Weitz was integral in revitalizing the network’s comedy brand with such new series as top-rated cable comedy The Last O.G. and The Guest Book as well as praised late-night program Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Weitz previously served as SVP Scripted Development for TBS and TNT, where he developed a range of hit series including The Last Ship, Rizzoli & Isles and Dallas.
“All three of these networks are powerhouse businesses and I’m personally invested in keeping them at the top of the heap,” stated Weitz. “We take pride in attracting awesome talent and creators that like to take risks and give audiences unexpected and exceptional programming. We will continue to foster these storytellers and break through this crowded landscape.”
Hinkle is responsible for developing many praised TBS series including Miracle Workers and Search Party. A former producer for The Daily Show, he was also responsible for bringing Daily Show alums Jason Jones and Samantha Bee to TBS, resulting in the hits The Detour and Full Frontal. Hinkle similarly leveraged his former role as co-president of fellow Daily Show alum Steve Carell’s Carousel Television to lure to TBS Steve and Nancy Carell, who created the long-running Angie Tribeca for the network.
Shortly after Turner consolidated the programming departments of TNT and TBS under Weitz, he laid out his vision for the brands to Deadline in January, including lighter dramas and more unscripted programming on TNT. Since then, there was a major programming move in May with comedy-centric TBS making its first foray into drama programming with TNT’s high-profile new post-apocalyptic sci-fi series Snowpiercer relocating to TBS.
With TBS being repositioned as a drama and comedy network and TNT beefing up its unscripted offering with the migration of TBS’ Drop the Mic and The Joker’s Wild and no new scripted pilot or series orders since last fall, there had been speculation TBS may become the designated scripted brand while TNT, which is down to two original scripted series, Animal Kingdom and Claws, now heading into its final season, would focus on unscripted and sports.
In a recent interview with Deadline, Weitz gave an update on the strategy for TNT and TBS, which continue to command some of the highest ad rates in basic cable, stressing that both nets will stay in the original scripted business with TNT focusing on “broad appeal dramas,” and TBS adding “more humorous, premium populist dramas” to its original comedy series. Meanwhile, his new charge, truTV, home of such series as At Home with Amy Sedaris, I’m Sorry, Impractical Jokers and Tacoma FD, will be staying the course of “accessible experimentation” programming, Weitz said.
There has been a push in simulcasting — the most recent season of TNT’s comedic drama Claws was simulcast on TBS, as was the new docu series Chasing the Cure. Weitz indicated that the practice will likely continue but for the right projects. He also talked about cooperation with HBO Max, whose original programming is shepherded by former TNT development chief Sarah Aubrey, and indicates that greenlights are coming at the networks he oversees.
DEADLINE: Since we last spoke in January, TBS seems to have emerged as the leading scripted brand, with Snowpiercer moving there and no new scripted orders on TNT. What will be TBS’, TNT’s and truTV’s identities going forward?
WEITZ: TNT is going to still be populated with incredible dramas, Animal Kingdom, Claws, incredible movies, thrilling sports. Se have a great movie package on TNT, we’ll have Warner Bros movies and the Marvel movies. We’re going to continue to develop dramas and unscripted shows that fit that audience base, that fit the kind of thrill ride, exhilarating, probably more broad-appeal dramas. Accessible dramas.
TBS, I believe, just from a real estate perspective, truthfully has a little bit more room to play around; there’s a little bit more elasticity in the brand. TNT has so much basketball and AEW, and all this incredible content. TBS has great acquired television shows and incredible originals, and what we believe is you can stretch that brand out to add some dramas. When you look at what dramas we want to add, Snowpiercer is a science fiction show that caters to probably young men.
Coming out of the NCAA Final Four, which is the biggest thing — it’s our Super Bowl — in spring, we’ll bring 20 million people into that night. We believe that’s a smart strategy. We believe that those kind of more humorous, premium populist dramas will work really well over on TBS. And truTV continues to do what it’s doing, which is accessible experimentation. It’s Jokers. It’s Tacoma. It’s I’m Sorry. It’s the shows that do really well for us.
Those, to me are very clear distinct brand names, and hopefully, as the town starts to realize what we’re doing, it will become even more clear when new shows and new series start to hit the air.
DEADLINE: Claws has that humor you mentioned.
WEITZ: It does.
DEADLINE: Wouldn’t it be good on TBS?
WEITZ: It’s currently simulcasting on TBS, and is doing well. Part of what we’re trying to do is use every tool we have in our quiver, and what I think is important for us to know is, for years we were siloed. Sarah (Aubrey) ran TNT. I ran TBS. Chris Linn ran truTV. Kevin oversaw it all. Then Bob (Greenblatt) shows up. Bob oversees all the networks plus streaming. We now have the ability to have conversations with each other in a much more holistic way, allowing us to use every tool at our disposal. To me, that is just a good game plan. It’s just good strategy.
Earlier, people would say, Your comedies do well because you have Big Bang. Okay, sorry, we have The Big Bang Theory, our comedies will do well. Now The Last OG builds off The Big Bang Theory. Ultimately we use all the stuff we have in our ecosystem to deploy the best shows the best way possible.
DEADLINE: So TNT will stay in the original scripted series business?
WEITZ: Yes. Yes.
DEADLINE: Could any of TNT’s existing shows move permanently to TBS?
DEADLINE: Could there be more simulcasting?
WEITZ: I like the idea of simulcasting Claws and building up a collective fan base. Animal Kingdom would not do well on TBS. It just wouldn’t. I like the idea of also expanding what the TNT originals are in the next year or two, putting on Chasing the Cure. We have the Shaq Life docuseries coming to TNT. We’ve got a lot of incredible stuff coming. When I look at our programming grid, and I see this whole thing laid out into a one-year strategy in 2020 for TBS, TNT and truTV, it’s a pretty awesome, robust offering of original content across three networks.
DEADLINE: How many scripted and unscripted shows you are looking to add to each brand in the next year?
WEITZ: It’s not a defined number. It really becomes, what’s the need, what’s the real estate, what’s going to ultimately cycle out and what may be getting a little long in the tooth needs to be replaced? That’s the feel of the programming job that I love.
DEADLINE: Do you develop anything with the streaming service, HBO Max, in mind?
WEITZ: Not in mind, but definitely as a final destination for sure. Kevin said this on the upfront stage, and I think he nailed it. For years, we have sold the downstream revenue rights to all these SVOD players. We finally get to own that. To be able to own that entire virtuous circle is such a dream for us. To be able to sit with Sarah in a development meeting or a pitch and, you get it.
(A new series) is going to start on linear and then five months later, after the MVPDs are done with it, it’s going to go to SVOD (on HBO Max). They’re going to help build the season two. Season two is going to come back to linear. That’s a company that’s finally working together. That’s exciting.
DEADLINE: Are you close to ordering any pilots?
WEITZ: Yes, I am getting close to ordering a pilot. A couple, and a couple of series, too.
WEITZ: Scripted and unscripted, yes.