With basic cable networks buying more original series, and digital companies such as Netflix starting to license reruns, “there’s never been a better time to be in the television content and distribution business,” Warner Bros Television Group president Bruce Rosenblum told the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference. His operation still depends on ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC for most of its profits — even though they typically favor the shows they produce. WB’s been the top TV supplier for 20 of the last 25 years by being everyone’s second choice. “If you get enough at-bats, it adds up,” Rosenblum said. WB has 27 primetime shows on broadcast TV this fall including 11 newcomers. The exec is especially enthusiastic about Two And a Half Men with Ashton Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen. “CBS is very, very excited about it,” he says. Rosenblum says he isn’t worried yet that sales of older shows in continuing series to online streaming services will lure viewers away from new episodes on network TV, although “it’s something we’re watching.” But he says the digital companies have an opportunity to stand out if they purchase reruns of cable network series — networks don’t like to buy these from each other — and serialized dramas that often don’t appeal to TV stations.
As for first-run syndication, Rosenblum says he’s optimistic about his company’s new Anderson Cooper talk show Anderson. Led by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Warners has eight weekday shows in first-run syndication, which account for about 8% of the revenue at Rosenblum’s unit. “It’s a nice little business,” he says. Like other execs talking to investors this week, Rosenblum says he’s “encouraged” by the strength of the ad market even though the economy is weakening.