Bewkes warns of cheap content sell-off

TW chief blasts digital distrib'n biz model at Brit confab

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has warned the TV industry not to sell off content too cheaply for digital distribution.

Giving the keynote address at the Royal Television Society’s Intl. Conference in London on Tuesday, he said deals that would allow new TV entrants Apple and Amazon to sell hit series for 99¢ an episode threaten to undercut the biz’s economic underpinnings.

“How can you justify renting your firstrun TV shows individually for 99¢ an episode and thereby jeopardize the sale of the same shows as a series to branded networks that pay hundreds of millions of dollars and make those shows available to loyal viewers for free?” he asked.

He told the audience of industry heavyweights that the new platforms must “support or improve the overall economics that funds and creates the programing in the first place.”

Later in the day, U.K. media minister Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to reintroduce U.S.-style local TV stations in Blighty, calling the industry “London-centric.”

To encourage investment in local TV, Hunt announced the government will abolish cross-media rules, enabling newspaper and commercial radio groups to collaborate on his venture. Hunt, an evangelist for local TV even before he became a minister in May, believes that the kind of TV stations that thrive in the U.S. could work in the U.K.

Commercial web ITV started life in 1955 as a network of local TV stations that gradually merged. By 2005 only STV in Scotland, UTV in Northern Ireland and Channel Television in the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey were still separate brands within ITV.