Jeff Bewkes: ‘Network TV Has Whip-Hand Over YouTube And iTunes’

Time Warner’s chairman and CEO says he asks what TV aggregators can do for his channels rather than the other way round. “New entrants such as Google , Amazon and Apple must support or improve programming going into the marketplace,” said Bewkes, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference in London this afternoon. For example, Time Warner keeps full-length shows off YouTube. The Time Warner boss predicted a shake-out among internet companies. Whatever was new on the internet, whether it’s a Google search engine or Facebook social media, tends to be winner takes all, he said.

Bewkes argued that with TV shows such as Boardwalk Empire, which will come to UK Sky next year, TV is having its 2nd golden age. Partly this is because TV has kept pace with technology, from digital to HD to 3D. “We’re in the midst of a TV renaissance,” Bewkes tub-thumped. Bewkes singled out UK-originated shows such as Shameless, The Office, American Idol and X Factor as examples of quality TV. “The cultural impact of TV is now greater than movies. TV has become the most innovative medium in pop culture today. And it comes from increasing quality. Television is very healthy right now; TV is the only medium which has increased its audience apart from the internet.”

Given that 80% of Time Warner revenue comes from TV, Bewkes said he’d restructured the media giant as mainly a video programming business. “AOL was meant to take over everything,” Bewkes said, referring to AOL’s 2000 merger with Time Warner. “Unfortunately, it only took over us.”

Bewkes dismissed talk of the internet diminishing the power of channel brands such as CNN. “One of the fallacies of the internet age is that network brands don’t matter. But truly great programming is developed by distinctive brands. You don’t premiere a Boardwalk Empire on the Disney Channel.” Bewkes said the only threat to this rosy future was not putting network brands right at the heart of on-demand programming. “When people have a surfeit of choice they want to know where the programme comes from,” he said.

Referring to Piers Morgan replacing Larry King as CNN nightly chat show host, Bewkes said Morgan’s appointment maintained the tradition of cultural exchange between Britain and America. “Basically, we take whatever’s a hit over here,” he said to laughter.

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