The first three months of 2013 were mixed for the entertainment giant. Time Warner says this morning that it generated net income of $720M, +23.9% vs last year’s Q1, on revenues of $6.93B, -0.6%. That missed the consensus analyst forecast of $7.12B. But adjusted earnings at 82 cents a share were well ahead of predictions for 74 cents. At the cable networks, including HBO, revenues were up 3% to $3.7B with operating income +11% to $1.3B. The company says that a 1% decline in ad sales ($12M) and 4% drop in content revenues ($11M) took some of the edge off of subscription revenues which were +5% ($115M). Ad growth at Turner‘s U.S. entertainment networks “was more than offset by declines at its news networks, due to lower demand” as well as the closing of channels in India and Turkey last year. Film and TV entertainment saw operating income grow 23% to $263M even though revenues fell 4% to $2.7B. Time Warner attributes the decline to “lower theatrical performance and a decline in television licensing revenues” — adding that it was offset by higher home video sales for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Argo. Meanwhile the magazine publishing unit, which the company plans to spin off, generated a $9M operating loss (vs last year’s $5M loss) on revenues of $737M, -5%. READ MORE »
The proxy filed at the SEC this afternoon says that the CEO’s contract emphasizes long-term performance over year-to-year metrics. Still, Jeff Bewkes shouldn’t complain about his compensation for a year when Time Warner shares appreciated nearly 30%. His package includes $2M salary, $6.9M in stock awards, $3M in option awards, $13.6M in non-equity incentives, $219,560 change in pension value, and $167,943 in other compensation. Most of the “other” pay is for his personal use of the company aircraft. Time Warner says that “for security reasons” Bewkes was given a car and driver and “was encouraged to use Company aircraft for business and personal use.” Bewkes’ pay was 4.5 times higher than the median for his four closest colleagues, just a tad better than last year’s 4.6 times but still well over the line (3 times) that makes corporate governance watchdogs fear that a CEO wields too much power.
The Washington public policy exec just founded Linda Bloss-Baum Creative Strategies, and it will offer “communications and advocacy services,” Politico reports. Bloss-Baum had been Time Warner’s VP for public policy since 2011 and earlier represented Warner Music and Universal Studios after serving as counsel to the House Energy and …
Listen to (and share) episode 26 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Executive Editor Lieberman and host David Bloom look at Fox’s decision to launch a national sports channel; Time Warner’s plan to spin off its Time Inc. holdings; and Bob Iger’s wins at the Disney annual meeting this week.
Wall Street’s divided on the question this morning, with Time Warner shares up just 1.3% following the announcement last night that it will convert the publishing unit into a separate company by year end. Make no …
Time Warner’s talks with Meredith Corp about combining their magazines in a separate company collapsed today. But here’s Plan B for the media giant: It will spin off its publishing arm into an independent, publicly traded entity, likely by year end. Until recently, Time Warner execs scoffed when asked whether they’d consider mimicking News Corp, which is spinning off its newspaper assets. Now, though, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes says the idea provides “strategic clarity” that will enable his company to “focus entirely on our television networks and film and TV production businesses.”
Don’t tell the Time Warner CEO that cable and satellite subscribers are fed up with rising prices, and tempted to replace them with some combination of free TV and Web services such as Netflix. Pay TV is “getting to be a better deal for consumers and a better deal in the opinion of consumers,” Jeff Bewkes told investors at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom conference. “Even in this recession, you don’t have cord cutting.” What’s more, TV viewing is up at a time when “you have increases in the quality and programming budgets of all these networks.” When companies including Time Warner Cable and Dish Network offer low priced packages with relatively few channels “nobody buys them.” And TV Everywhere will make consumers more attached to pay TV. “It’s all going on demand, on every Internet device you have for free because you have a subscription.” What if he’s wrong, and consumers want something cheaper? Time Warner will still be fine, Bewkes says. “We all know that the reason [prices are] up is the sports fee, it’s not anything else. Half of citizens don’t want that.” But 90% of his company’s affiliate fees come from four networks including TNT and TBS that are built around entertainment. If consumers want bundles without sports then “we’ll be in their bundles.” And low priced offerings would lower the threshold for subscribers to also subscribe to HBO. “That would be great for HBO,” Bewkes says.
With apologies to Bill Maher, here’s a New Rule for Big Media CEOs when they decide to raise their dividends or announce a major new stock-repurchase initiative. They have to stop insisting that it’s a sign of confidence and strength in cases where they’re just bribing investors to keep them from fleeing.
This thought struck me in the Q4 earnings season that’s wrapping up. Just about every big company that fell even a little short of Wall Street’s expectations had a new plan to return cash to shareholders. The explanations were consistent. After CBS missed analysts’ revenue and earnings targets, CEO Les Moonves said his accelerated $1B share repurchase reflects “the great confidence we have in our businesses.” At Time Warner — which missed revenue forecasts but beat on earnings — CEO Jeff Bewkes said that it was able to authorize an additional $4B share repurchase and an 11% dividend increase because “we’re at an even stronger position today than we were a year ago.” Then there’s Comcast, which just slightly missed revenue and earnings expectations but raised its dividend by 20% and agreed to repurchase $2B of stock, while announcing that it will pay $16.7B for General Electric’s 49% of NBCUniversal. The moves demonstrate “confidence and optimism in the future of all our businesses,” CEO Brian Roberts said.
They’re right in this sense: Most Big Media companies are part of pay TV oligopolies that still have scandalous power to set and raise prices — mostly by requiring people who want to keep up with the national conversation to pay for dozens of channels that they never watch. Execs also had encouraging reports about current concerns. Generally speaking, ad sales picked up in Q4, and TV viewers returned to the major broadcast networks after the dismal opening weeks of the fall primetime season.
But if executives are so bullish about their companies, then why do they consider it such a great thing to give cash to investors to spend elsewhere? Wouldn’t they demonstrate their faith more persuasively if they used the funds to expand — you know, create jobs — or buy assets in complementary or growing fields? It’s not like we’re still in the depths of the recession when media stocks were such a bargain. CBS shares are more expensive than they’ve been since the end of 2005 when it separated from Viacom. Time Warner’s at a five-year high. And Comcast is at its all-time best. If the investment strategy is to buy assets when the price is high, all I can say is, folks, don’t try this at home.
Listen to (and share) episode 23 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. This week Deadline Executive Editor Lieberman and host David Bloom look at a bullish CBS and its new minority stake in AXS TV; an upbeat Discovery despite missing the quarter’s expectations, Media Rights Capital’s new movie co-financing business and Time Warner’s decision get out of a very old business.
The entertainment company’s believers and skeptics will find something to support their cases in the report this morning about Time Warner‘s Q4 results. But early traders like what they see, including the forecast for low-double-digit growth in adjusted earnings this year: the share price is +4% in pre-market trading. In Q4, Time Warner generated net income of $1.17B, +51.3% vs the period last year, on revenues of $8.16B, -3.5%. Revenues were a little short of analysts’ consensus forecast for $8.25B. But adjusted earnings at $1.17 a share were well ahead of predictions for $1.10. At Time Warner’s Networks unit, which includes Turner Broadcasting and HBO, rising ad sales and affiliate fees resulted in a 5% increase in revenues, to $3.7B, with operating income +21% to $1.4B. CNN was helped by the presidential election, while TNT benefitted from an increase in the number of NBA games. The Warner Bros Film and TV Entertainment operation fared less well, with revenues -4% to $3.7B but with operating income +29% to $552M. Time Warner trots out the “difficult comparisons” excuse for the revenue decline, noting that last year it had the home video of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 and the video game Batman: Arkham City. And, once again, the Time Inc magazine publishing division had woeful numbers with revenues -7% to $967M and operating income -3% to $200M. Ad sales were down while subscription revenues were flat.
Private equity firms Permira and KKR are said to be working with JPMorgan Chase on options for their 53% stake in German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Media. The firms could sell to another company or on the open market, …
The layoffs in the 8,000-person workforce will “come from all areas of Time Inc. across our locations – both domestic and international,” the magazine publishing unit’s CEO Laura Lang told staffers in a memo. No word yet on which …
UPDATED SHOCKER! Kevin Tsujihara To Become Warner Bros CEO; Bruce Rosenblum And Jeff Robinov Didn’t Find Out Until Late Last Week; “I’m Disappointed; Who Wouldn’t Be?” Rosenblum States; “Excellent Choice,” Robinov Says
2ND UPDATE (includes Robinov statement): Hollywood is stunned. Time Warner Chairman/CEO Jeff Bewkes just destabilized Warner Bros in a big way with today’s shockingly unexpected announcement that Kevin Tsujihara will take over Warner Bros on March 1st. I actually heard this two weeks ago from a source – and I didn’t believe it. That’s not a knock on Tsujihara’s ability. But no way Bewkes could ignore the fact that Bruce Rosenblum‘s Warner Bros Television Group accounts for 50% of overall Warner Bros revenues.* But Bewkes did. “Obviously, I’m disappointed; who wouldn’t be?” said Rosenblum, the TV president who was actively campaigning for the post, in a surprisingly candid statement. ”Warner Bros is a unique and special place and I know it will be in good hands with Kevin at the helm. I continue to be proud of our accomplishments and I have the most respect and admiration for our amazing team at the studio – a team that is thriving in an ever-transforming business.” Warner Bros Film Group topper Jeff Robinov at first remained silent and his office told Deadline it was “highly unlikely” he would have a statement. Now, one has been released – and it’s studiedly upbeat: “I am truly happy and proud of Kevin. We are both good friends and colleagues and I think he’s an excellent choice for the job. The Company will be in great shape under his leadership,” said Robinov. In fact, insiders tell me that Bewkes further humiliated Rosenblum and Robinov by not telling them about the choice of Tsujihara. I understand the duo had to hear about it at the last minute late last week from outgoing Barry Meyer.
[*Time Warner doesn't break out Warner Bros in its financial statements so that statistic may include Turner which doesn't report to Bruce. Warner Bros results are included in the 'Film And TV Entertainment' unit. It accounted for 40% of Time Warner revenues in the first 9 months of last year - $8.3B out of $20.6B - but just 17% of operating profit - $676M out of $3.9B. While Time Warner doesn't break out numbers for Warner Bros Television, it has revenues for "Theatrical Product" and "Television Product." Theatrical product accounted for $4B in the first 9 months ($1.4B from film rentals, $1.3B from home video and electronic delivery, $1.1B from TV licensing, and $127M from consumer products and other). Television product came to $3.4B ($2.6B from TV licensing, $617M from home video and electronic delivery, and $208M from consumer products and other).]
Here’s what Bewkes and Meyer said about their decision in a joint statement: “Given the talent, depth and strength of the Warner Bros’ leadership, selecting our next CEO was not a decision that could be made hastily or lightly. But we both agreed that Kevin is the right person to lead Warner Bros. and to build on its proud heritage as the world’s most storied content producer… In 2005, Kevin was appointed to head the then newly formed Home Entertainment Group, which he has skillfully led through a difficult transition and which remains number one in the industry by every measure. Just as importantly, he is a leading voice in creating and deploying new digital models to ensure that we remain market leaders. We’ve both been very impressed with Kevin’s strategic understanding and intuitive grasp of the evolution of the consumer’s interaction with our television shows, films and video games, and his ability to visualize how our products will be enjoyed in the future.” Warner Bros Home Entertainment’s division covers home video as well as the company’s wide ranging videogame properties and investments, digital distribution, anti-piracy, and emerging technology operations
Few thought Robinov was seriously in the running for the top job since he’d only taken over as film studio president in Spring 2011 from outgoing Alan Horn (now heading up Walt Disney Studios after Bewkes unceremoniously kicked him to the curb). But conventional wisdom was that Rosenblum, who took over the TV group in 2005 the same year that Tsujihara took over Home Entertainment, had a near lock on the job – especially if Bewkes decided not to go outside. And an appointment of Rosenblum would have continued Meyer’s TV leadership at Warner Bros and therefore not been questioned. Sounds to me like Meyer betrayed Rosenblum. Of course, Rosenblum still has an alternative power platform as Chairman of the Board of the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences since November 2011. Robinov, meanwhile, has kept and is keeping his head down, immersed in developing powerhouse franchises like The Hobbit and perhaps Man Of Steel to replace Harry Potter and the most recent Batman trilogy.
Undoubtedly, Tsujihara’s new appointment will spark debate inside and outside Hollywood over whether Home Entertainment is most important to the future of Big Media. And whether content or platform/delivery should dominate. Of course, Bewkes could have (and in my opinion, should have) done nothing for several more years, and simply allowed his Warner Bros troika to coexist as equals. Now Bewkes, especially given the harshly crude way he handled this announcement, is risking the loss of two superlative executives. Keep tuned.
This is the second licensing deal the entertainment giant has cut with Netflix over the last week. In the latest one, beginning on March 30 the streaming service lands all past seasons of Cartoon Network‘s Adventure Time, Ben 10, Regular Show, and Johnny Bravo, as well as Warner Bros Animation’s Green Lantern. It also will have Adult Swim shows Robot Chicken and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sony Pictures Television’s The Boondocks and Warner Bros Television’s Studio 2.0′s Childrens Hospital. Subscribers have to wait a year, to January 2014, before Netflix begins its exclusive streaming run of the first two seasons of TNT’s Dallas. The companies didn’t disclose financial terms.
The addition of children’s shows to Time Warner‘s deal with Netflix may revive the debate over whether the streaming service is cutting into ratings for ad-supported kids shows on TV. That was a big concern last year when ratings dropped at Nickelodeon after many of its shows appeared on Netflix.
Here’s today’s release: