AOL Time Warner announced Tuesday that it is
merging the WB broadcast network and the Turner cable networks
under one group led by the WB's chief executive, Jamie Kellner.
Terence McGuirk, a 28-year Turner veteran who has been chairman
of Turner Broadcasting, will become a part-time vice chairman under
The move creates the nation's largest television group, with the
WB, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, the Cartoon Network and all of
the CNN networks under Kellner's watch.
Kellner founded the WB in 1993 with Warner Bros. and the Tribune
Company. He was president of the Fox Broadcasting Co. from 1986 to
Bob Pittman, co-chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner, said
the move was precipitated by McGuirk's desire to take a less active
role in the company. The new Turner Broadcasting System allows
greater opportunities to combine forces creatively, through
promotion and in advertising sales, he said.
"We clearly have very complementary assets there," he said.
Pittman would not say whether anyone would lose their jobs
through the move, although he did say most of the cuts were behind
the company. CNN had in recent months laid off about 400 employees
and, separately, there were about 100 job cuts at Turner
Broadcasting in Atlanta.
"I don't think this is about cuts," Pittman said. "I think
this is about how we build the best organization and the best
products that we can. I think we've gone through the period where
we had consolidation."
Kellner said he wanted to explore more ways to use programming
across the different networks, meaning, for example, some of the
WB's series may find their way onto TNT or TBS.
With the exception of a minor setback last year, the WB has
grown steadily since its formation behind hits like "Buffy the
Vampire Slayer" and "Dawson's Creek." It is most popular among
teens and young adults.
The WB also has been strong in children's programming, with the
potential to join forces with The Cartoon Network.
Kellner, with no direct news experience, said he would leave
editorial judgments at CNN to the management there. He's most
interested in ways to better promote the news networks, which
executives have regarded as a weakness.
CNN, once the undisputed leader in cable news, has seen its
viewership drop due to increased competition with Fox News Channel,
CNBC and MSNBC.
"I'm a great admirer of CNN and love what they do," Kellner
said. "They've made a number of changes to their format over the
last couple of months. Right now I think we should just let it
breathe and let the audience grow with the programming."
As head of Turner Broadcasting, Kellner will also have ultimate
oversight of the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta
Thrashers sports teams, as well as the Goodwill Games.