Bewkes: Microsoft pact a blow against piracy

Co. to cut debt, up cash, revive America Online

AOL Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes hailed the conglom’s recent pact with Microsoft as a strong step toward combating the digital piracy that’s already stomping all over the music biz and lying in wait for film and TV.

It’s a snap to digitally download a song, but it’s still a longer and more complex process to copy and send video. As it becomes easier, piracy “will have increasing power to undermine revenue. … It’s in both our interests that we come up with a good system” that’s effective and easy to use, Bewkes told an investor conference in Gotham sponsored by Sanford Bernstein.

It was the first time the former HBO topper spoke solo on behalf of all of AOL TW since he was tapped to run the conglom’s media and entertainment properties last summer. His appointment, alongside that of former Time Inc. head Don Logan, was applauded by many on Wall Street and inside the company as it emerges from a Gerald Levin-Steve Case-Bob Pittman-AOL funk.

Antitrust suit settled

Last week, Microsoft agreed to pay AOL TW $750 million to settle an antitrust lawsuit; it also gave the conglom rights to its Windows Media encryption software.

Bewkes also reiterated the company’s commitment to cut debt, churn out more cash and revive America Online.

AOL TW has sold assets for $2.7 billion. A sale of its book publishing division is likely in a matter of weeks; Bertelsmann’s Random House may have reemerged as the favored buyer.

Wayne Pace, AOL TW’s chief financial officer, told another conference Monday that the company was more than meeting its targets so far this year and might raise its third-quarter financial outlook.