Mr. John Martin
CEO, Turner Broadcasting
Dear Mr. Martin:
I was alarmed to read about your plans to start 2015 as a leaner, more nimble company. This sounds like downsizing over the holiday season, which disappoints me as a job market enthusiast and saddens me as an Atlanta resident. First and foremost though, I am a problem solver, and therefore moved to contact you with urgency.
I can tell you how to fix the Turner family of networks. Here’s where to start: Fix TruTV
TruTV's online Crime Library has (for years) had a cult following. The Library offers quality non-fiction to those of us who can’t pull the trigger on a novel, but love to stumble into a page turner. The CL is also a decent research tool—its well-organized narrative format stands out in a WWWeb oversaturated with wiki-style resources.
In 2008, I spent many nights buried in the CL when I should have been in the UL (Undergrad Library) doing homework. 2008: Tablets weren’t commonplace; twitter and YouTube were only recently blowing up; Netflix, for most, was still DVD rental; Forensic Files wasn’t syndicated all over town or repackaged as “Mystery Detectives.” 2008 was before the reality TV boom; before the rise of niche docu-networks like Bio, H2, and Investigation Discovery.
TruTV was born in 2008, when all three CSIs were killing it in the ratings and the reality TV movement was taking off. The ground was fertile for wild success in true crime programming. Turner seemed to realize this: Right off the bat, Turner successfully branded TruTV as not only a leader but an authority in the field, even boasting the Crime Library.
But something happened. A lot of true crime readers who stayed up late exploring TruTV’s Crime Library back in 2008 are now dedicated fans of Investigation Discovery and don’t watch TruTV at all.
At some point since 2008, Investigation Discovery (“ID”) became the “it” channel... A household name for the new wave of interest in the true crime genre. “Chill out, we’re not going to get murdered. Dude, you watch too much ID. “
Meanwhile, TruTV was becoming all but irrelevant to the genre. Flash forward a couple of years and instead of sitting on a genre-wide dynasty, Turner had effectively transformed TruTV into a 24/7 Braves Rain Delay. “Most Shocking.” “World’s Dumbest.” Television’s most obnoxious, shallow, out of touch programming. The Worst.
I understand new original programming is a risky and counter-intuitive move for ratings, but that risk assumes a need to lay the groundwork for material, develop programming, and cultivate a viewership. The good news about having abandoned a good thing you had going is that a lot of that has been done.
For instance--CrimeLibrary is still very well established. By nature, it comes with prepackaged episodes, series, themes, research, contacts, stories, and a following. CrimeLibrary series. CLTV. Boom. Want to test the waters first before a full series? Mini-series. Pow. And pump some $ into that mini-series promo—let everyone know the rightful heir to the true crime throne is here. The prodigal cable television channel has returned.
I have numerous specific, actionable ideas, not all under the true crime umbrella. I am happy to share them, but I hope this insight was thought provoking meanwhile.