To paraphrase THE WIZARD OF OZ, Turner Classic Movies has two new women behind the curtain, and they’re not to be ignored.
Variety and Deadline Hollywood reported today that Jennifer Dorian has been named general manager of TCM, a development I first reported exclusively more than two months ago. (TV Week credits Cinematically Insane with the scoop here.) In fact, Dorian’s new role took effect at the end of October, in a corporate restructuring following the completion of the Turner 20/20 cost-cutting initiative.
Dorian, a fifteen year veteran of the company and previously the chief strategy officer for Turner Entertainment Networks, will report directly to Coleman Breland, president of Turner Network Sales.
“Jennifer is an incredibly smart and strategic executive as well as a standout leader with a proven track record of innovation,” Breland said today in a statement. “I have complete confidence she will perfectly position the TCM brand and implement successful, out-of-the-box ideas as we move the business forward into the future of the TV industry.”
Today’s announcement confirms that TCM will now function as a separate and autonomous unit within Turner Broadcasting, no longer connected in reporting structure to its sister networks. Jeff Gregor, who had previously served as TCM general manager and chief marketing officer for TNT and TBS, will continue his role at TNT and TBS only, with Kevin Reilly as president of TNT and TBS and chief creative officer of Turner Entertainment. The hiring of Reilly, former head of programming for Fox and NBC, was announced on November 4. Reilly replaced Steve Koonin, who stepped down in April as president of Turner Entertainment Networks to become chief executive of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team, which used to be owned by Turner but was spun off in 2004. Got all that? Good.
In addition to confirming what readers of this blog already knew, Turner also announced today that Genevieve McGillicuddy has been promoted to vice president of brand activation and partnerships for TCM, up from senior director.
McGillicuddy is a familiar face to attendees of the annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, where she has served as managing director since the Festival’s inception in 2010. She joined Turner in 2004 and previously was director of the Atlanta Film & Video Festival and Out on Film, the Atlanta Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. McGillicuddy will report to Dorian, and both will continue to be based in Atlanta.
“Genevieve has been vital to the growth of TCM and her branding expertise, knowledge of the industry, and innovative thinking make her one of the best in the business,” said Dorian.” “I’m thrilled to have her lead our team as we look to expand and grow the TCM brand moving forward.”
If you’re a Turner Classic Movies viewer you have to love these changes. Dorian has been described as a “champion” of TCM, and McGillicuddy has demonstrated a remarkable ability to cater to the uniquely demanding sensibilities of classic film fans. The growth of the TCMFF from a boutique experiment in 2010 to a destination experience demonstrates that.
TCM’s status as a commercial-free network makes it unusual in the basic cable landscape. There’s a lot of money lost by passing through 85 million households without commercials, but the network’s new status as standalone unit may allow for entrepreneurial expansion that will both generate revenue and delight the fan base. (And we’re hard to please, and resistant to change. Did I mention that?)
What that expansion will entail remains to be seen, but one clue may lie in the recent announcement of Sling TV, an Internet TV service expected to launch in the first quarter of this year. For just 20 bucks per month, cord-cutters can get Turner networks TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim (along with seven other channels) – all without a pricey cable or satellite subscription. They can add sister networks HLN and Boomerang for a few dollars more, and all can be watched anywhere, anytime, on a computer, mobile device, or TV (via a streaming player like Roku).
With seven Turner networks soon to be available sans cable or satellite, can a streaming version of TCM be far behind? As more and more viewers cut the cable cord and transition to over-the-top TV, the need to serve that audience is a requirement TCM has to consider. The Watch TCM mobile app (launched in November of 2013) is brilliantly constructed and could be also be offered direct to viewers for a monthly fee, but the risk is cannibalizing the existing business model. Even though Turner charges cable and satellite providers only pennies per month for TCM, 85 million pennies add up.
Only time will tell how Dorian, McGillicuddy, and TCM handle the challenges of the “future of the TV industry,” but one thing is certain: the opportunity to experience classic film in new ways will have many viewers over the rainbow.