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. Read More »
When CBS chief Les Moonves appears at an investor event like this week’s UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference, they should just get him an orchestra and a spotlight so he can sing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” “Everybody calls me a cheerleader but network television’s doing better than it’s done in many years,” he told analysts today. He says that CBS’ prices for ads in the scatter market are up “in the mid-teens” over the upfront, although “our competitors are doing not as well.” Heading into the holiday season ”demand is picking up again” and few are cancelling upfront orders for early 2012. “When you look at where our ratings are, you don’t want to cancel a CBS show because (later on) you’ll pay more.” To underscore his confidence in CBS’ finances, he threw some red meat to investors: ”Could we raise the dividend (next year)? That’s a possibility.”
He’s encouraged by the additional dollars flowing to the network from retransmission consent deals with pay TV distributors, and reverse compensation payments to CBS from its affiliates. If a local station balked at shelling out cash to CBS — which used to pay stations to carry its shows — then Moonves would consider yanking the affiliation agreement. But he says that’s unlikely because CBS’ strong primetime line up ”is making them a lot of money” by delivering large audiences to local newscasts. Meanwhile, he’d like the FCC not to require that network programming remain on pay TV when distributors balk at retransmission consent payments. ”This is America. We’ll make a deal with these guys or won’t make a deal.” Read More »