Hmm, Jeff Bewkes is about to turn 59 on May 25 but still isn’t anywhere near as old as that old coot Sumner Redstone who turns 88 two days later. But today Bewkes showed that he can be just as erratic. And, trust me, Wall Street and Main Street don’t like CEOs who can’t keep their corporate strategies consistent. For the past months, the Time Warner boss has been publicly and repeatedly beating up on Netflix because of its recent moves that can and will hurt HBO. Among other insults during his jihad, Bewkes has compared Netflix to the hapless Albanian army in its attempt to take over the entertainment world while also expressing deep concern about its recent string of content partnerships. But today, during questioning at a NYC Bloomberg Business Of Entertainment event, Bewkes strangely played nice, saying “I do have a fondness for subscription television, and Netflix is subscription television. So, welcome, brother!” And he declared “if they move toward original programming, then they will be like HBO. We think it’s great that they are doing that.” Does Bewkes really think there’s no institutional memory of what he’s said before? On myriad matters, he has flip-flopped more times than presidential candidates. (So much for the advice that the boss is getting from his bungling “I’m not a flack, I’m a strategist” lieutenant Gary Ginsberg, who got himself fired at News Corp and should get fired from Time Warner as well for failing to ensure that Bewkes sticks to a consistent message.)
Bewkes also has allowed his Warner Bros staff sergeants to undermine if not destroy the relationship between moviemakers and theater owners with this ill-advised deal for a $30 premium video-on-demand partnership with DirecTV with the other colluding Big Media companies Universal and Fox and Sony. The plan going into effect calls for some blockbuster films’ POV window to be only 8 weeks after theatrical release. (The norm is 4 months.) But today Bewkes foreshadowed an even shortened window by complaining how most movies “have about a 3-week life” pre-DVD because of piracy.
Too bad questioner Charlie Rose didn’t ask the Time Warner bigwig what Wall Street analysts will want to know during their May 4 earnings call: why flush with cash from that Time Warner Cable sale, Bewkes didn’t have the brains or balls to buy some great synergistic companies when their stock prices were in the crapper during the depths of the economic crisis.