Execs have thought about the idea. But Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes told analysts this morning that the concept of creating a subscription-based channel featuring productions from Warner Bros and HBO “is not ready for primetime.” He left the door slightly ajar, though, adding that “I don’t want to rule it out, exactly.” The problem is that his company’s shows appeal to lots of different audiences. “Comedies are different than dramas. It doesn’t make sense for us to have an all-genre network…[People] go to the Food Network expecting something different than TBS.” Besides, Time Warner already has a thriving business supplying the broadcast networks — it has at least two shows on every major one — as well as existing streaming services led by Netflix and Amazon. “We think that the better way to play it,” Bewkes says.
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.”
The entertainment giant’s CEO kicked off his quarterly earnings call with analysts by paying homage to the shooting victims in Aurora at a showing of Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises. He voiced ”our profound sadness about the terrible events” and added: ”Our deepest sympathies go out to the victims of this appalling …
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and News Corp COO Chase Carey took the message to The Cable Show this morning, urging attendees to jump on the Internet video bandwagon — even if it means relaxing their grip on the relationship with their customers. “We’ve just got to do it faster,” Bewkes says about TV Everywhere, the service that enables subscribers to watch TV shows on mobile devices. Carey agreed that “it should go faster,” adding that “we get too hung up on protecting the rules of the past.” That was a subtle swipe at pay TV distributors who covet their gatekeeper role. Many fear that they could lose control once subscribers begin to use an iPad or other device to access shows directly from programmers — without a need for the operator’s set top box or on-screen guide. ”We’ve got to find a way to make all of these experiences easier to use and more accessible,” Carey says. “That requires us to work together.” Bewkes agreed. “Let consumers use the interfaces they want,” he says. “You’ll still have your subscriber relationship. We can’t develop the best, world-class interfaces at the scale that a distribution company has. Silicon Valley, the Internet industry, is a global industry and that’s what they do. We should harness that….Don’t try to hold that back. Consumers won’t allow it.”
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes showed tonight on PBS’ Charlie Rose that he and Rupert Murdoch may be the only Big Media moguls who can talk about the business without sounding like they were manufactured by IBM. Bewkes even had some interesting things to say, although most of his observations came from his greatest hits collection — and you could go dizzy trying to follow a train of thought from Charlie Rose’s zig-zag questioning. For example, Bewkes says that while the prospects for the movie business are bright, the days of having releases appear in theaters a few months before they’re available on home video are numbered. “Everyone in the business, including theater owners, has an interest” in getting to a point where films will be available everywhere early on, he says. Acknowledging that “this is a dangerous question,” Bewkes says that execs will work together and “be as thoughtful as we can to do it in a way that doesn’t undermine the theater experience.” But he doesn’t see how the industry can continue to wait months before offering a movie to home viewers. ”You create a gap for piracy,” and consumers “have to get what they want.”
UPDATE, 8:50 AM: Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes joined the pack of media company CEOs predicting that this year’s upfront ad market will be strong. “It’s looking pretty good,” he told analysts this morning. Ad cancellations are low. He also says that the company has strong momentum. Although he acknowledged that “TNT ratings remained challenged” in Q1, he believes that advertisers will warm to the addition in June of re-runs of The Mentalist, and plans to add four original series. Also CNN should benefit from the election, and Cartoon Network is “taking significant viewing share from its competition” — including Nickelodeon, which Bewkes says was hurt by its decision to offer some of its shows on Netflix. “Cartoon Network was up 14% and we think part of the reason is that we don’t have our shows spinning on (a subscription VOD) service.” Although there’s a role for streaming services like Netflix, if you put a show on “that runs the sprockets off, you’re going to erode the value.” That’s fine for older content, but for a popular show such as The Big Bang Theory “it’s unlikely it’s going to go to an S-VOD service anytime soon.” He wouldn’t mind, though, if Hulu — as widely rumored — changes its business model to be just available to pay TV customers. “We think authenticating makes sense… Hulu’s heading in the right direction now.”
The Time Warner chief delivered an unusually impassioned address today imploring investors to pressure everyone from pay TV distributors to Hollywood studios to deploy on-demand streaming initiatives including TV Everywhere and UltraViolet home video. “Not enough consumers are aware of these powerful enhancements and not enough consumers have them at their fingertips,” Bewkes told the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference. “We have to move much faster…You should absolutely demand that the companies in which you invest get serious and invest in this opportunity.” He’s most interested in television, the business that accounts for about 80% of Time Warner’s profits — and especially TV Everywhere, which gives pay TV subscribers the ability to watch shows on mobile devices on demand. ”The user experience today is really spotty. Some distributors make it easy and others don’t. You know who they are and so do they.” Specifically, Bewkes wants programmers to make more content available to TV Everywhere. He wants programs to be available on TV sets as well as tablets. He wants Nielsen to figure out how to measure the number of viewers on all digital platforms. And he wants distributors to make it easy to find and access programming. “You shouldn’t need to be knocked upside the head by an iPad to realize that consumers are demanding rich, flexible, intuitive user interfaces,” he says. Consumers “think they deserve it, and they do. And they’re voting with their finger tips everyday.”
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes channeled his inner Les Moonves in a conference call with analysts this morning to deliver one of the most relentlessly cheery infomercials he has ever presented for his company. But he wasn’t able to duplicate the CBS chief’s ability to mesmerize investors: Time Warner shares dipped sharply during the presentation after opening up on the company’s strong 4Q results and announcement of a new stock buy-back plan. The drop was due to the company’s warning that corporate expenses will rise in 2012. Execs also acknowledged that the film studio — which won’t have a new Harry Potter film — faces difficult comparisons with the 2011 results.
Still, Bewkes hammered on his theme that “our best years are ahead of us” — especially due to TV Everywhere and business models that promote digital distribution. “We’re at the vanguard of the industry” in promoting them, Bewkes says. For example, the HBO Go app soon will be available for Microsoft’s XBox. The company also is developing apps so pay TV subscribers can
Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes and Viacom’s Sumner Redstone are among the honchos under attack by Anonymous — a group of so-called Internet “hacktivists” – The New York Times reports. Bewkes apparently has already been hit with threatening phone calls …
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes needed a better joke writer to help him acknowledge the anniversary of the blunder he made at last year’s UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference when he wrote off Netflix, comparing it to the Albanian army trying to take over the world. He had to eat those words as Time Warner, along with just about everyone else, began licensing programming to the online streaming service. “This is the appropriate place to point out that the Albanian army did take over the world. Alexander the Great? It’s close.” The line only elicited a few chuckles from analysts, but they didn’t seem to mind after hearing Bewkes say a lot of things they wanted to hear. Time Warner’s ad sales have been ”up double digits (since the upfront market) and are holding.” Although 4Q was a little soft, ”some of that is advertisers pulling stuff forward to the upfront. … We’re looking fine for the first quarter,” especially with the return of NBA games.
He also assured investors that they don’t have to be concerned about Warner Bros’ prospects following the end of the Harry Potter film series. He said that within hours, the Harry Potter presence that has done so much for Universal’s Islands of Adventure park in Orlando “will move in a material way in that direction” — suggesting that the company and Comcast will confirm reports that Universal Studios Hollywood will get a version of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. ”Everybody stay tuned.” He also says that the studio has high hopes for additional franchises including the Batman/Dark Knight series.
NEW YORK — Time Warner Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes today announced the appointment of Laura Lang as Chief Executive Officer of Time Inc. Ms. Lang will join the company from Digitas Inc. where she served as Chief Executive Officer since 2008. She will become CEO of the largest U.S. publishing company, home to such iconic brands as PEOPLE, TIME, INSTYLE, and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, in January 2012.
UPDATE, 8:45 AM: Time Warner shares are down 2.5% in early trading: Investors already knew that Harry Potter was a hit, and expected more from the cable networks. Time Warner tried to show the Street some love by accelerating its share repurchases — it spent $1.1B in 3Q — which enabled the company to raise its earnings-per-share growth estimate for 2011 to “high teens” from the previous “at least low teens.” But CEO Jeff Bewkes used his conference call with analysts to cheer-lead what he says will be a company-wide benefit from the growing global interest in high quality content. He says that CW (which Time Warner co-owns with CBS) recently cut “game-changing” deals with Netflix and Hulu. “It adds money to the ecosystem,” he says, especially as the digital services license old and serialized shows that are hard to syndicate. “There’s plenty of room for us to do deals if the people who want to buy (shows) can afford it.” Although the company acknowledged that it’s been disappointed by recent ratings at TBS and TNT, it expects that to change. In the first two weeks, re-runs of The Big Bang Theory have raised ratings at TBS, which Bewkes says should lead to “big improvement” in 4Q and 2012. “We think it’s going to continue to build and help the lead-in to Conan.” He says that the cable nets have had a hard time finding successful sitcoms to buy, although that’s changing. Warner Bros has four of the top seven now on TV. “We’ve never had so many successful comedies on the air at one time,” he says. The company says the loss of NBA games in 4Q will be immaterial; although it won’t have their big audiences, it also won’t have the big costs. Bewkes says he’ll look at adding NFL football to the mix. “We would not do it as a loss-leader” he says but adds that “it would be a giant move, if we made the move.” Time Warner says that ad prices in the scatter market are up high-single to low-double digits over upfront.
PREVIOUS, 4:55 AM: The entertainment giant will be talking a lot about its movies and TV shows today after Warner Bros’ record-setting quarter helped to make up for a slowdown in cable network growth and a decline in publishing. Time Warner had net income of $822M, up 58.1% vs last year, on revenues of $7.1B, up 10.8%. Earnings at 79 cents a share were well ahead of the 76 cents that the Street expected. Filmed entertainment revenues were up 19% to $3.3B powered by Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 and license fees from The Big Bang Theory, although home video was down. The cable networks, which include Turner Broadcasting and HBO, saw a 7% increase in revenues to $3.2B.
The Time Warner chief says that in four years he expects to see a doubling of his overseas business that now generates about $2.5B a year in revenue and $500M in operating profit. Most of the increase will come as the company’s pay TV networks and shows become more broadly distributed, generating higher ratings and ad sales. “The value of American-produced content is going up pretty fast around the world,” he told the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference. But he also raised the possibility of using the Internet to go around some conventional TV carriers. For example, in some parts of South America “multichannel (TV) subscriptions are only 10% of the market (and) there’s no reason the telephone company can’t sell HBO, TNT or CNN.” There’s no guarantee the strategy will work everywhere: Some broadband providers “say any content coming over my plant that I don’t think is good isn’t coming over my plant,” Bewkes says.