The Time Warner chief delivered an unusually impassioned address today imploring investors to pressure everyone from pay TV distributors to Hollywood studios to deploy on-demand streaming initiatives including TV Everywhere and UltraViolet home video. “Not enough consumers are aware of these powerful enhancements and not enough consumers have them at their fingertips,” Bewkes told the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference. “We have to move much faster…You should absolutely demand that the companies in which you invest get serious and invest in this opportunity.” He’s most interested in television, the business that accounts for about 80% of Time Warner’s profits — and especially TV Everywhere, which gives pay TV subscribers the ability to watch shows on mobile devices on demand. “The user experience today is really spotty. Some distributors make it easy and others don’t. You know who they are and so do they.” Specifically, Bewkes wants programmers to make more content available to TV Everywhere. He wants programs to be available on TV sets as well as tablets. He wants Nielsen to figure out how to measure the number of viewers on all digital platforms. And he wants distributors to make it easy to find and access programming. “You shouldn’t need to be knocked upside the head by an iPad to realize that consumers are demanding rich, flexible, intuitive user interfaces,” he says. Consumers “think they deserve it, and they do. And they’re voting with their finger tips everyday.”
He also wants the movie industry to expand its online presence. Although home video revenues are declining, Bewkes says that “the encouraging news is we don’t have a demand issue.” The problem for the studios is that people are buying less and renting more, especially from low-cost providers led by Redbox and Netflix. He says that Hollywood shares some of the blame. “It has not been easy to buy a movie digitally to manage your digital collection and to watch it on the device of your choosing, particularly the television,” he says. As a result, “the industry has come to a crossroads. We know consumers want to buy today, but they can’t do it with the ease and functionality that they have come to expect. We need to fix that and we should fix it quickly. If we don’t, we run the real risk of habituating consumers to rental when in fact they may prefer to own and build collections of movies.” That’s also why he wants to accelerate the rollout of the industry’s UltraViolet initiative, which makes it possible for people who buy DVD and Blu-ray discs to also stream the films. Although some of the early releases have been hard to access, “we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the perfect solution.” He says that consumers are used to seeing products improve over time. “We need to start this and get everybody including retailers involved in this effort.”
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