Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes showed tonight on PBS’ Charlie Rose that he and Rupert Murdoch may be the only Big Media moguls who can talk about the business without sounding like they were manufactured by IBM. Bewkes even had some interesting things to say, although most of his observations came from his greatest hits collection — and you could go dizzy trying to follow a train of thought from Charlie Rose’s zig-zag questioning. For example, Bewkes says that while the prospects for the movie business are bright, the days of having releases appear in theaters a few months before they’re available on home video are numbered. “Everyone in the business, including theater owners, has an interest” in getting to a point where films will be available everywhere early on, he says. Acknowledging that “this is a dangerous question,” Bewkes says that execs will work together and “be as thoughtful as we can to do it in a way that doesn’t undermine the theater experience.” But he doesn’t see how the industry can continue to wait months before offering a movie to home viewers. “You create a gap for piracy,” and consumers “have to get what they want.” Bewkes says there’s life left in DVD and Blu-ray discs. “They’re still in Walmart and 7-Eleven…The bad news is (they) may have to be cheaper.” He adds, though, that broadband distribution is catching up fast. There are 7B people and in the world, and “now you can put bits and bites across the planet and it really doesn’t cost anything.”
Rose also pressed Bewkes to defend CNN. The CEO acknowledged that “we’d like to do better” in the ratings. But he adds that his chief rivals, MSNBC and Fox News, “aren’t really news channels.” They’re partisan and take “a talk show, host-led approach to news with a focus on analysis and opinion.” By contrast, he says, “the mission of CNN from the start is a devotion to strong, comprehensive journalism, non-partisan.” It also devotes more time than the other channels do to non-political subjects, he says. The result, though, is that the network attracts a lot of viewers who don’t register in the ratings because they tune away quickly if there isn’t major, breaking news. He flattered Rose by saying that the interviewer tries to create a high-quality show. “You’re not booking guests trying to get the highest rating,” Bewkes says. “CNN is really the same.”
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