Global Internet piracy actually helps spread the word about original programming like HBO’s “Game of Thrones” — ultimately leading to more paying subscribers for the premium cabler, according to Time Warner Inc. topper Jeff Bewkes.
Studies have shown the “Game of Thrones” is among the most-pirated TV show around the world. In the final analysis “that’s better than an Emmy,” Bewkes said, speaking on the media conglom’s second-quarter earnings call. His comment may have been somewhat tongue-in-cheek but Bewkes’ point was that buzz is good for the HBO brand.
That’s not to discount the value of an Emmy, though: Previously, Bewkes boasted that HBO had snagged 108 Primetime Emmy Award noms this year, the most of any network for 13 years running.
HBO offers an Internet-streaming service to subscribers, HBO Go, and some industry analysts have questioned whether password sharing is cutting into potential revenue. However, a recent study showed many consumers engaged in password sharing said they would be willing to subscribe to the services.
As far as people trying to steal HBO’s programming, “we’ve been dealing with this issue for literally 20-30 years,” Bewkes said, back to the days when pirates were “running wires down the back of apartment buildings” to illegally watch the channel.
“Our experience is, it all leads to more subs,” Bewkes said. Word-of-mouth about HBO shows lets the cabler spend less on advertising, he added: “We let the programming and reviews talk for us.”
Also on the call, Bewkes discussed the possibility of the pay TV biz moving to a la carte programming. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently introduced a bill that would force a la carte TV pricing.
The Time Warner chief said that a shift to pure a la carte is probably not in the offing, with a more likely scenario being a shift to smaller bundles of channels. If that happens “we do believe we are very well positioned,” with networks like TNT, TBS and CNN that are among the top cablers.
“We doubt (a la carte pricing) will happen but if it does, it will happen in a way that will help us,” he said.
Meanwhile, asked about new pay TV offerings from over-the-top entrants like Intel Media, Bewkes said ”we’re not philosophically opposed to it, but we don’t see it being viable through any of the usual suspects yet.”
Regarding Intel specifically, Bewkes said, “I don’t know what they’re going to do or whether they’re going to do that.” Time Warner talks to Apple “all the time” and has had discussions about licensing programming with “a number of technology companies,” he said.