“We’re all in the process — and Warner Bros is in the center of it — of figuring out how to license and expose programming” over multiple platforms, the Time Warner CEO says. “The economics have to adjust.” But Jeff Bewkes told the Deutsche Bank Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference that he expects little or no cannibalization as TV shows move from networks to cable VOD and online services including Netflix, as well as traditional syndication. “Your interest may go up, not down. We’ve seen a lot of that at HBO….There’s a lot of repeat viewing.” Some analysts are beginning to wonder whether services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime — which thrive from their ability to show TV reruns — might suffer as programmers let cable companies offer episodes almost immediately after they first air on ad-supported VOD where fast-forwarding is disabled. But Bewkes says that TV viewing “will go up dramatically because there’ll be more opportunities for you to see it.…TV will become more accessible and you’ll still have your [online subscription VOD] backup service. It’s like a sandwich. Eat it while it’s hot.”
Like other media execs appearing at the investor confab, Bewkes appeared unruffled by Comcast’s $45.2B plan to buy Time Warner Cable. “In the short run we don’t think there’ll be much change in our situation…In the long run there are some questions about changes in competition that we’ll look at and the government will look at.” He adds that his company hasn’t decided whether it will change its name — a question raised as Time Warner plans to sell Time Inc, and to avoid confusion with TWC. “It would be good if those Time Warner Cable trucks didn’t say Time Warner,” Bewkes says. “People are calling me.”
The Time Warner chief says that he’s not “philosophically opposed” to the advent of services that offer pay TV channels via the Internet. While he wonders whether service providers have the capacity to handle so much video streaming, he adds that he’s “open to do it as long as it’s additive.” He’s skeptical, though, that a service would work if it offers fewer channels than cable or satellite companies do but at a lower price. When distributors have tried them “consumers don’t elect to have them very often.”
While Bewkes mostly focused on TV, the main source of his company’s revenues, he says he expects to see growth at Warner Bros. Unlike most movie studios, “we haven’t had a volatile business as Warner Bros and we’ve been the biggest studio company in terms of revenue for the last 5 to 10 years.” He attributes that to the fact that the studio “operates with more tentpoles per year and more scale” than its rivals. And it’s a powerhouse in TV production with 32 shows across the four top broadcast networks. So there’s “a very strong demand situation, and therefore profitability, for the studio….So far, so good. Right?”
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