Time Warner Jeff Bewkes comes across as the media world’s most laid-back CEO. But he asked a lot this morning when he told movie theater owners to cool their jets about Premium VOD. “There’s been too much excitement about this,” Bewkes said at a panel discussion sponsored by investment firm Jefferies & Co. “Our interests are aligned.” That will come as a surprise to the National Association of Theater Owners and its members who loathe PVOD as much as the Tea Party hates taxes. Exhibitors say many would-be ticket buyers will wait to watch films at home as studios including Warner Bros begin to offer 8-week-old releases on cable and satellite VOD services for about $30 a showing. Bewkes says theater owners are wrong: “I’m saying (box office revenue) doesn’t go down.” Everyone will suffer, he says, if the studios can’t provide an alternative to pirates who sell bootlegged copies of recent movies to people who don’t want to wait for the official home video release. Other panel members — none of them exhibitors — supported Bewkes. CBS chief Les Moonves said that although theater owners are scared, “you have to change a bit.” And Sony Corporation of America CFO Robert Wiesenthal said that “everybody is experimenting and being aggressive,” even though studios should recognize that theaters are “the foundation of the economic value chain for a feature film.”
Also from the panel: Bewkes says it’s fine for producers to sell old TV shows to Netflix’s Internet streaming video service. “It’s just a question of everybody (being) in the right place in the economic chain,” he says. He draws the line at HBO providing programming to Netflix, which would help it to become an alternative to cable instead of a supplement. “We don’t think it makes sense,” Bewkes says, likening it to CBS licensing shows to NBC. But Moonves actually had nice things to say about his rival. Comcast’s decision to buy a controlling stake in NBCUniversal “showed a lot of foresight,” Moonves says, adding that the cable company is “beginning to do great things.”
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