Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes remains one of the industry’s biggest cheerleaders for the cable and satellite programming bundle. But he told the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference today that distributors could do a better job of offering on-demand programming and more interesting user interfaces as consumers become intrigued by digital alternatives.
“It’s a very exciting time for a media company,” he says. “The future is in the hands of the media industry if they make the right decisions.”
He declined to address recent reports that Time Warner might partner with Comcast, Disney and Fox at Hulu. He added, though, that he likes the service — and anybody who can improve consumer interfaces.
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Bewkes says he’s still a big believer in the traditional cable and satellite bundle. “We haven’t seen any tipping point” in cord cutting or shaving. The company recently saw “a little, not a lot, of subscriber weakness.” That’s partly because “there’s been a longstanding adoption habit and loyalty to this set of channels. And they’re getting better.”
But he’s enthusiastic about opportunities to offer programming on demand, which he believes traditional distributors have been too slow to offer. His view is that on-demand will help them keep customers and will help companies such as Time Warner that offer premium content.
He likened on-demand to a volume control on a TV set. “If you like volume on your television, you should demand on-demand,” he says. “That’s how it should work.”
HBO, which introduced a stand-alone streaming service this year — plans to spend $1 billion on original programming and ramp up marketing.
“Of course you’re going to have competition,” Bewkes says. Apparently referring to Netflix, he added: “We don’t underestimate anybody with a big checkbook. You know who we’re talking about.”
On other matters, the CEO talked up Warner Bros, saying that 2015 “was another record profit year.”
That’s mostly due to television and games, but Bewkes is optimistic about next year’s film slate, which will be “shifting more to big franchise releases” including Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Suicide Squad, J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, The Conjuring 2 and what he called a “new potential franchise”: Knights Of The Round Table: King Arthur.
Looking to 2017, he’s optimistic about Wonder Woman, which “could bring an underrepresented female audience to this [superhero] genre.”
Bewkes also says he’s upbeat about his ad-supported Turner channels including TBS, TNT and CNN. Ad sales in the scatter market are up by double-digit percentage points. “That bodes well for next year,” the exec said.
He’s intrigued about the possibility of picking up Thursday Night Football games — if the price is right — as the deal with CBS expires. With the NBA, NCAA and Major League Baseball, “we’ve got a strong sports offering. We’re interested in the NFL. But we don’t have to have it.”
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