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Video Problems Interrupt TBS, TNT Upfront Event

President of Turner Entertainment Networks Steve Koonin and Ray Romano step in with some impromptu standup.

NEW YORK -- Recurring video problems delayed the screening of video clips and interrupted the TBS and TNT upfront several times here Wednesday. But a top executive of the Turner Broadcasting networks and talent stepped in to ensure that the show could go on.

The technology challenges first popped up early on during the event at the Hammerstein Ballroom. As Conan O'Brien introduced a clip, the video wall behind him remained dark. "I love working at TBS," he quipped, lauding the network's "commitment to detail."

When a man with a headset, apparently a stage hand, came on stage and whispered to him, O'Brien asked out loud "skip the clip!?" He added to laughs: "Who the hell are you?"

The show moved on, but when Michael Wright, executive vp, head of programming, TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies (TCM), wanted to show a clip of new TBS show The Wedding Band, the video again failed.

After a break of several minutes, Steve Koonin came on stage and introduced himself as the former president of Turner Entertainment Networks.

"My name is Steve Koonin, formerly of Turner Broadcasting," he said, adding that his team had been rehearsing since Sunday. Saying a power surge seemed to have caused the problem, a reason later confirmed by a statement issued by a spokesman, he launched into some further impromptu standup, and the crowd gave him rave reviews for it.

"I would ration your pastries," he said as he joked - to much laughter - that the crowd would get out in time for the Univision upfront Thursday afternoon. "I also heard the toilets are clogged," he added.

Koonin then went to the one side of the stage and urged the audience: "This side of the room - Row, Row, Row Your Boat."

Koonin assured ad buyers that "our pricing is not changing because of this." But he quipped that the company's expenses are likely to go down because of the tech problems - "if you know what I mean." It was a signal that Turner may ask the venue for some money back.

Handing back over to Wright, Koonin asked to more laughs: "Are you going to say the same crap you already said?"

After the Wedding Band clip finally played, Ray Romano came on stage and said he was asked to earn his money due to further technical problems. "They pushed me out there and said earn your money," Romano said. After a few minutes of jokes, the video wall was ready to play a George Lopez clip.

The comic and late night host then came on stage and quipped he could take everyone over to the Telemundo upfront.

The video problems briefly returned when a clip for TNT's Falling Skies, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, started playing.

It was restarted and worked this time.

The problems became a recurring joke of sorts as Breckin Meyer and Mark Paul Gosselaari introduced a clip for their new lawyer show Franklin & Bash, with Meyer saying it will "maybe" play. That clip played smoothly.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai