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Popcorn Power: From TCM to TNT...


Turner recently held their Upfront press junket in Johannesburg to unfurl some changes to their channels and programmes ahead of 2019 and announce their Powerpuff Girl Award winners. The press event featured two big display screens for video content, cartoon mascots, a smart rotating stage displaying a different set for each channel with Nicholas Goliath wielding the mic as MC.

Instead of laborious speeches, the format centred on short, sharp bursts of video content with interviews to create a more entertaining and interactive atmosphere for attendees. Extending the group's entertainment goals and aim to host cool, entertaining and relevant content - the junket was served up in style with special celebrity guest, Toya Delazy, announcing the Powerpuff Girl Award winners who hailed from all corners of Africa to receive cash prizes to help activate and sustain their innovative social upliftment projects and products.

The Turner media company controls channel content for Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Warner Bros. TV, CNN and the recently rebranded TCM, now known as TNT. Among various programming changes and new shows, they've introduced a platform called [adult swim], featuring animated series appealing to the elusive millennial target market. According to Head of Channels, Julien Borde, "kids channels are powerful and co-viewing is important" highlighting the drive toward greater co-viewing for families. Turner is striving towards content aimed at all ages with a special focus on their Boomerang channel, which features a host of broad family classics such as Tom & Jerry as well as Mr Bean.

Turner Upfront 2018

Nicholas Goliath introducing the Turner Upfront Media Showcase

A special focus area for their Africa market is the 15-40 age range, adapting the content for a much younger audience. This is part of the reason their Turner Classic Movies channel TCM was rebranded to TNT, opting to forgo the niche older demographic market and traditional black-and-white classic films for more action-orientated blockbusters and cult favourites. VP Head of Sales and Business Development, Guillaume Coffin, says the TCM brand was "good for certain people but that the people it was appealing to was narrow". After making small changes and performing some trials, they amplified the findings, which resulted in the launch of TNT in Africa.

The TCM brand has been exported to different countries such as the UK, Middle East, France, Germany and Spain with content moderated according to the "appetite for each country". A greater move towards action-driven, modern films made the Turner Classic Movies brand outmoded, resulting in a shift to TNT. As with most of Turner's channels, there's a definite coolness factor at play. TNT has credibility thanks to its selection of retro, cult-certified films and this is evident in the programming as well as the award-winning creative around its offering.

Borde says it's a "great brand to work for" and that "brands are useful to customers and creators", which Coffin complemented by emphasising the way a film recommendation will play out differently according to the frame of referral. Turner consider a number of elements when determining TNT film programming with the aim of establishing "a top popcorn entertainment channel with quality films tailor-made for African audiences". A team of experts select films based on ratings, genres and film stars... using data to determine what viewers want and curating quality content to suit the audience.

TNT logo

From TCM to TNT...

Turner have started to move from digital to public spaces through their animated channels with a greater physical presence with mall activations and an impending summer beach tour. Their online presence has been considerable, leveraging YouTubers to create videos for Cartoon Network, ordering localised content for social media to influence parents to drive brands, as well as investing in social responsibility and anti-bullying campaigns. TNT Africa leverages their webpage and has over 26K fans as part of their Facebook community, 70% of which who are South African.

The group are aware of the steady creep of the Netflix model of OTT and on-demand content and have been able to reach more people through Showmax by adding value through DStv's premium package. South Africa's market is slightly different in terms of accommodating a wide range of network speeds, but being a part of Warner Bros and AT&T telecoms, they're aware that operators adjust according to consumer appetites. Having to service the traditional satellite viewers and those who would rather use LTE and their iPad, Turner have had to adjust their offering to serve everyone. As part of their continuous improvements, they will be making HD available on TNT and a number of channels with a steady roll out plan.

According to Coffin they are investigating the idea of producing local content as they've done in Germany and Spain. The strategy is focused more on kids now, but the thinking is around how to use, fund and create universally relevant content for international distribution. Selecting the right partners and creating the right kind of content through idea incubators like Creative Lab, where they field hundreds of animated concept entries across Africa, they have seen scope. Coffin jokingly remarks "we have a picky attitude because we are French" adding that what they've seen is "very promising" and "impressive".

All in all, it seems Turner are making a number of improvements to their offering, tailoring content to meet viewers where they're at and taking a much stronger interest in Africa and by extension South Africa. Being the first media event of its kind for Turner, it seems that the Upfront media showcase is set to become a regular annual feature.