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.
Time Warner’s also hoping to see the Internet boost domestic sales with the rollout of TV Everywhere. When cable and satellite companies make it possible for subscribers to see shows on mobile devices, and on demand, then the package becomes “a more powerful economic offering.” Programmers including Time Warner may profit from higher ratings, ad sales, and pay TV affiliate fees: “The viewership of hit shows on HBO when you get done with on demand can (increase) 50% up to 100%,” Bewkes says. If networks develop user interfaces that are as attractive and easy to use as Hulu or Netflix, then “that could get interesting.”
Bewkes’ view of the TV ad market is consistent with what we’ve heard from other moguls. “Demand has been high, and pricing is up considerably over the upfront.” Print is “a little softer” and some areas in Europe “are not so strong.” Still, he’s upbeat about the next few months, noting that corporate profits are up, and companies have a lot riding on holiday sales.