The Time Warner CEO seems to be positioning the company for a post-cable future.
Speaking on Time Warner’s most recent earnings call, CEO Jeffrey Bewkes talked at length, not just about the last quarter, but about the future. The future, outlined by Bewkes, is one that many have been anticipating, but that traditional media companies have tried hard to deny. “It is very clear that all the TV in the world is going to go on demand.” Bewkes admitted. That phrase’s meaning is two-fold, referring both to more content becoming available on-demand, specifically via the Internet, as well as the diminished role and perhaps eventual demise of linear television. Jeff Bewkes was quick to praise Apple, their launch partner for HBO Now, as a “forward thinking” company, indicating that Time Warner isn’t too worried about the iPhone-maker’s possible disruptive push into the television space.
While Jeff Bewkes spent quite a bit of time focused on the future, for the time being, Time Warner’s cable properties have been performing well, with the NCAA’s March Madness tournament credited for a boost to its Turner Broadcasting division, which includes TNT and TBS, among others. While big sports have kept many people subscribing to cable and satellite TV, Bewkes did open the door to allowing other Turner or Warner Bros. assets to become available for streaming.
Despite painting a bright future for streaming media, and a rather grim one for traditional television, Jeff Bewkes was quick to reassure investors that OTT products from Time Warner like HBO Now were not and would not cannibalize pay-TV revenues. For HBO in particular, the availability of the network outside of a cable packages is seen more an expansion of the pie, rather than stealing a piece from pay-TV. But while Bewkes has a careful line to walk when speaking publicly to both Time Warner investors and business partners like the TV providers, the facts seem to suggest otherwise: that the shift to online TV is indeed a threat to both cable companies and content providers alike. Without acknowledging it, Bewkes seems to be positioning Time Warner to cope with the drastically changing TV landscape, if not contribute to the change.
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