Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes gave credit to Comcast and Verizon FiOS for doing a good job of promoting and delivering video-on-demand services — and he criticized other pay-TV operators for failing to deliver on the potential of VOD.
There’s a “tremendous opportunity for other distributors to whom these (VOD) rights have been extended,” Bewkes said, speaking at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference in New York. “If we don’t fill that need then it’s going to get filled by somebody else.”
The CEO called on other cable and satellite partners to “move more quickly and with more foresight” on VOD. “If you think about the success of Netflix and the interest in YouTube, it’s mostly because you can get your stuff on demand,” Bewkes said.
Time Warner’s cable networks business, which lifted third-quarter profits for Time Warner, will continue to invest in programming rights, Bewkes said. After the Time Inc. publishing unit is spun off — on track to occur in the second quarter of 2014, he said — carriage fees from pay-TV operators will be about one-third of Time Warner revenue.
At the conference, Bewkes was asked about ratings declines at Cartoon Network, and how significant a role Turner’s licensing deal with Netflix played in that drop. He responded that Netflix was “not a big piece of what the decline was,” saying the bigger factors were that Cartoon had a bigger year in 2012 and that some of the net’s shows “are tired.”
Meanwhile, Bewkes reiterated his view that HBO is not directly competitive with Netflix, noting that viewing of Netflix in HBO homes is higher than in Netflix-only homes. “These are complementary services,” he said.
Bewkes also touted the health of Warner Bros., saying the studio is “heading toward another record year” of profitability. Future projects he called out: The studio will begin production next year on the untitled “Batman vs. Superman” pic — following the strong performance of this year’s Superman reboot, “Man of Steel” — and recently inked a pact with “Harry Potter” scribe J.K. Rowling on another series of films set in the world of wizards and magic.
Asked about the prospect of “virtual” cable operator, which would deliver TV channels over the Internet, Bewkes expressed the same level of skepticism he has before about the idea. “It’s interesting. We’re all open to it,” he said. But questions remain, including whether broadband infrastructure is robust enough to support such services.