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In attempt to finally find a niche of its own and move away from more derivative cable reality fare, TruTV completes its long-gestating brand refresh on Oct. 27. The Turner-owned network, adopting the tagline “Way more fun,” is moving heavily into the comedy space with the launch of four new TV series and the return of laugher linchpin The Carbonaro Effect.
“It’s no secret that our ratings are down, but this is a transitional year for us,” TruTV president and head of programming Chris Linn tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We’ve not launched a lot intentionally, so when we flip that switch in the fourth quarter, our brand is consistent with new premieres that entire week.”
Indeed, 2014 has been largely quiet on the TruTV front. The accompanying marketing for the new series will roll out over the coming month with a preview special starting Oct. 4 and on the network’s on-demand and social media platform. Those four new series — Hair Jacked, Fake Off, How to Be a Grown Up and Friends of the People — are the result of what’s proved to be an unconventional development process for Linn.
“I think producers want to take big swings, but most networks aren’t in a place to take that many risks,” he says. “We’re at a unique moment where we want nothing but those big risks. At first it was tough; producers are developing ideas they can pitch to many networks. It took them time for them to realize we wanted that crazy idea they didn’t know where to take. And we’ve picked a lot of those up.”
Derivative reality — see the blue-collar boom prompted by Duck Dynasty and the bartering and auction onslaught that Pawn Stars hath wrought — has been an issue across the cable landscape. And TruTV is the first cable network of late (ignoring NBCU’s dramatic swapping of Style for Esquire) to combat the viewer fatigue by shifting gears completely.
TruTV worked with a variety of producers, including Hazy Mills Productions and Shine America, to nail down the catalog for the opening lineup. And the sum of those parts will see 60 new episodes of programming debuting on the network in the first 65 days of the refresh.
Refreshing or rebranding TruTV in the eyes of viewers will be a challenge. Despite ratings success (Hardcore Pawn), the network has struggled to really define itself in the shadow of Court TV — even though that disappeared back in 2007. “Tru has surprisingly low awareness as a brand,” says Linn. “It’s had tremendous success in individual shows and brought in lots of eyeballs, but there’s always been a lot of confusion with viewers. They still think a lot of the Court TV shows are still on.”
For the audience that did have a grasp on TruTV, the network’s image was not one that Linn wanted to hold onto when he took the helm in 2013 after departing MTV. “We were getting lumped in with some of our competitors with the conflict-reliant, heavy, dramatic and maybe overly produced reality,” he says. “The opportunity to break free from that and find a new brand found us leaning more into the comedic.”
Ushering existing and (hopefully) new viewers into the new identity is a manifesto reel featuring clips of the new series and general merriment. The “Way more fun” campaign also includes the recently tweaked logo and a slew of new marketing imagery, all from branding agency loyalkaspar.
“Creating content that’s fun and entertaining is at the core of what we’re doing,” said TruTV senior vp marketing and digital Puja Vohra. “We’re working with a wide range of outstanding folks like Mullen, Traktor, 360i, and mr.gif, among others, to create breakthrough content as well as big distribution platforms to target our funseeker audience in fun and unexpected ways, encouraging them to sample the new TruTV.”
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