WarnerMedia upfront: CNN moves into natural history, HBO Max’s AVOD offering

New unscripted programming announcements, including a Tiffany Haddish-hosted weekly movie showcase, CNN’s first foray into natural history, and details on HBO Max’s AVOD tier figured as part of WarnerMedia’s upfront ...
May 19, 2021

New unscripted programming announcements, including a Tiffany Haddish-hosted weekly movie showcase, CNN’s first foray into natural history, and details on HBO Max’s AVOD tier figured as part of WarnerMedia’s upfront showcase, held virtually today (May 19).

With the presentation being pre-taped, the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger was only mentioned off the top in a brief message from current WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who said during his remarks: “For the moment, it’s still business as usual at WarnerMedia.”


More details emerged about the previously announced ad-supported tier for streaming service HBO Max. In the first week of June, HBO Max will offer an ad-supported option for subscribers at $9.99 per month.

The new tier offers viewers an alternative to the existing ad-free model, which is priced at $14.99 per month.

In terms of programming, a first look trailer was offered for the much anticipated Friends: The Reunion special, premiering on May 27. The clip shows the cast convening on the series’ original set, welcoming guest stars such as Tom Selleck, and looking over old scripts for the series in “table reads”.

Action for the ‘TNets’

The TNets (TBS, TNT and truTV)  — all WarnerMedia brands — announced various premiere dates for their unscripted slates.

TBS will feature Friday Night Vibes, a 52-week movie destination that spotlights feel-good comedies, action-packed blockbusters and culturally significant storytelling inclusive of diverse voices. Hosted by actress and comedian, Tiffany Haddish and featuring surprise guests each week, the show is billed as a celebration of life and cultural diversity, featuring special behind-the-scenes moments and authentic conversation.

The weekly lineup will include thoughtfully selected movies. At launch, TBS will also air feature films celebrating Black excellence to commemorate Juneteenth along with classics for Father’s Day, and other films that lean into annual celebrations throughout the year.

Friday Night Vibes is executive produced by Reginald Hudlin for Hudlin Entertainment, Phil Gurin for The Gurin Company and Byron Phillips for TBS. The series premieres June 18.

TruTV series premieres include Backyard Bar Wars (July 8), a send-up of the classic home reno show with host, Chris Distefano. The U.S. adaptation of The Cube, with host Dwyane Wade, premieres June 10.

The network premiere of Impractical Jokers: The Movie bows July 1. The feature film tells the story of the comedy troupe that began with a humiliating high school mishap from 1992, sending the four lifelong friends on the road competing in hidden camera challenges for the chance to turn back the clock and find redemption.

Unscripted series renewed for the 2021-2022 season include Wipeout (TBS) and Fast Foodies and Impractical Jokers (both truTV).

Front Row launch as limited-commercial destination for TNT, TBS, Max originals

As part of the WarnerMedia Upfront, the company announced the launch of Front Row, a limited-commercial destination for TNT and TBS original series, alongside shows that were originally made for HBO Max.

Among the Max originals included in the announced lineup is Class Action Park, premiering later this year, in December. The feature-length documentary explores the legend and legacy behind a former New Jersey amusement park, Action Park. The film was produced and directed by Chris Charles Scott and Seth Porges.

Select TNT content scheduled to be included in Front Row includes new unscripted series Rich People Problems and Rhodes to the Top. Produced for TNT by Raw, Rich People Problems reveals true stories about wealthy and famous people, using personal interviews and unseen archive footage. The series is executive produced by Glenn Barden and Fiona Stourton, and series produced for Raw by Tom Lindley.

Meanwhile, Rhodes to the Top is an unscripted series following the lives of married couple Cody and Brandi Rhodes who manage the global wrestling company All Elite Wrestling. The series is a production of Warner Bros. Unscripted Television in association with Shed Media. Dan Peirson and Lisa Shannon of Shed Media are executive producers, along with Bernie Cahill and Jon Kanak of Activist Artists Management, and Tony Khan of All Elite Wrestling.

TBS content included in Front Row will be announced at a later date.

CNN slates first natural history project, travel series
News network CNN has added its first natural history project to its originals slate. Patagonia, produced by Plimsoll Productions, will provide “a sweeping and immersive deep dive into the land, animals, and people of one of the last untouched places on earth, the far-off land of Patagonia in South America.” It’s slated for 2022, as well as Dark was the Night: The Life of Hitler, produced by Left/Right, which promises a look at the “full arc” of Adolf Hitler’s “dramatic ascent, tyrannical reign, murderous criminality, and ultimate undoing.”

Also slated for next year is Raw’s four-part series, Reframed: Marilyn Monroe; Zero Point Zero’s upcoming travelogue series, Nomad with Carlton McCoy; and Raw’s previously announced Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.

This summer will see the debut of Cream Productions’ History of the Sitcom and Blackfin’s Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury, while October Films’ six-part series, Diana, is slated for fall.

Harry Potter retrospective

Meanwhile, a quiz competition and retrospective special are in the works to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first film in the Harry Potter franchise.

Warner Bros. is planning to launch a quiz competition series challenging fans of the Harry Potter series to test their knowledge. The series is planned to roll out across HBO Max, the Cartoon Network and TBS, with international viewing plans to be announced in the future.

The series is currently untitled, but will feature four one-hour quiz challenges across four days, before finishing with a retrospective special to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S.). The quiz series will be open to contestants 14 years old or more.

(With files from Andrew Jeffrey, Kim Izzo, Barry Walsh)

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.