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Regional Network TNN Changes Name, Programming Focus

TV: Viacom's cable station trades in Nashville for New York. Weekdays will have a more general-interest look.

September 20, 2000|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — The Nashville Network wiped that city from its name Tuesday, dubbing itself the National Network and hiring Nickelodeon's top executive to transform it into a general-interest competitor to USA and TBS.

Management control of TNN will shift from Nashville to New York. The network's longtime chief executive, David Hall, said he would quit instead of move north.

Changes were anticipated at TNN ever since Viacom merged with CBS, which owned the cable network. Viacom has struck it rich with networks such as MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon, yet longed for a broader-based cable network.

"The promise here is to be as diverse as the nation itself and break out of a regionalism that the network had," said Herb Scannell, the network's new president. Scannell is also president of Nickelodeon and TV Land and will keep those jobs.

TNN's weekend programming of racing and outdoors shows won't change much, but the network's new operators are looking to totally revamp its weekday approach.

TNN ratings are expected to jump immediately next week when the World Wrestling Federation's signature Monday night shows, "Raw Is War" and "Live Wire," switch over from the USA network. The WWF was allowed to move following a bitter court fight.

The network's roots in country music and Nashville have been de-emphasized recently. The station referred to itself on air as TNN.

"The Nashville Network is inherently limiting," said Larry Gerbrandt, a cable industry analyst for Paul Kagan & Associates. "It made sense when it was primarily music-oriented. What they're trying to do is create a competitor to USA and TBS. You can think of this as CBS 2."

Scannell said he hopes to use the CBS connection to help lure sports programming. With Viacom owning the Paramount movie studio and the Nickelodeon networks regularly buying old sitcoms and dramas, TNN has a corporate advantage in building a new weekday schedule.

The changes will be gradual for TNN viewers, the executives said, and they weren't able to announce any new programming Tuesday.

"While some shows may alienate some of the viewers, I think on the whole it's going to be inclusive to the existing viewers. And we're hoping to grab and attract new viewers," Diane Robina, the network's new general manager, said.

TNN will keep some operations in Nashville. The station's new executives wouldn't say whether anyone, except for Hall, was losing a job. TNN will divest its interest in the NASCAR Thunder Stores, which Hall operated.

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