Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes just threw a bucket of ice water on the idea that Netflix chief Reed Hastings raised last week in his quarterly letter to shareholders. “While we compete for content and viewing time with HBO, it is also possible we will find opportunities to work together – just as we do with other networks,” Hastings said. “Consumers who are passionate about movies and TV shows are quite willing to subscribe to multiple services.” Perhaps. But Bewkes isn’t interested in seeing HBO programming appear on Netflix just yet. “There are not talks going on between HBO and Netflix,” he said in his quarterly call with analysts. Although he acknowledges that “sometimes other relationships emerge over time” between competitors, when it comes to Netflix he added: “Not now.”
Bewkes said he has to choose his words carefully because “the press particularly gets very amplified on anything we say about Netflix.” He’s probably recalling the stir he created in late 2010 when he scoffed at Netflix’s clout. “It’s a little bit like, is the Albanian army going to take over the world?” he said at the time. “I don’t think so.” Today Bewkes noted that Hastings “has been very complimentary at certain times about the high regard he has for HBO — and we’ve been complimentary to them….Netflix proves that people love on demand programming.” Yet the Time Warner chief says he’d still rather see people get it from pay TV operators or digital services such as HBO Go.
Bewkes added that he plans to continue to just offer HBO Go to people who subscribe to the premium channel on cable or satellite. Although some consumers want the option of buying HBO Go without a costly pay TV subscription, he says that “we have a very good relationship with our distributors.” He notes that “there aren’t that many homes with broadband and no multichannel TV.” The big opportunity for Time Warner is to persuade more pay TV subscribers to also pick up HBO.