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Former Exec at WB, NBC Joins Turner Networks

March 21, 2001|SALLIE HOFMEISTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Garth Ancier, the former WB president of entertainment who defected to NBC in 1999, is returning to the Time Warner fold to work for his old boss.

In the first personnel move since becoming chairman and chief executive of AOL Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting operation two week's ago, Jamie Kellner named Ancier to the newly created position of executive vice president of programming for the Turner Networks.

Kellner said the appointment is in keeping with his emphasis on improving original programming at Turner's outlets, which include the WB broadcast network and cable channels TBS, TNT and the Cartoon Network.

He said Ancier also would coordinate a drive to squeeze more value from Turner's programming investments by "multiplexing" shows across both broadcast and cable networks within the same week.

Although broadcast networks typically have the exclusive hold on a prime-time show for four or five years, Kellner said he is going to radically change that pattern at Turner.

"In an 80-channel universe, you can't be using a 1950s economic model," said Ancier, 43, who will be spending half his time in Atlanta, where Turner Broadcasting is based, and half his time in Los Angeles, the headquarters of the WB. "To continue to make shows that cost $2 million per hour, you can't just air them on one network."

Both Kellner and Ancier pointed to the success of USA Network's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" as indicative of the future. The program airs Friday nights on NBC and appears a week later on USA, where it is among the cable channel's top-rated shows. "To make that work you have to do programming that fits both types of networks," said Kellner. "Garth will help determine what the shows are that work across platforms."

Kellner and Ancier have built two broadcast networks together. Ancier served as the first president of entertainment at Fox when Kellner was the network's president and chief operating officer. Ancier was also the head of programming at the WB, which was founded by Kellner in 1993 as a partnership between Time Warner and The Times' owner, Tribune Co.

Ancier helped build the network into a niche destination for teens and young audiences with shows such as "Dawson's Creek," "Seventh Heaven" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" before leaving in March 1999 to become president of entertainment at NBC. He was fired after 18 months because of a disappointing development season and his difficulty adjusting to administrative aspects of the position.

At Turner, Ancier will not have any direct reports. The presidents of the Turner networks will continue to report to Kellner.

"This arrangement really plays to Garth's strengths, which is the creative process," said Kellner in a statement. "We don't need him to administrate here; there is plenty of infrastructure for those tasks."

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