Time Warner CEO: AT&T Deal Is About Gaining "Equal Footing" With Tech Giants

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Jeff Bewkes

Facebook and Google, both of which are now competing with the television industry by buying programming of their own, already dominate the digital advertising industry.

Some of Time Warner's biggest competitors today are technology companies that weren't making programming just a few years ago. It's for that reason that last year Time Warner agreed to sell to AT&T for $85.4 billion, according to CEO Jeff Bewkes.

Speaking Wednesday at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., the exec explained that the deal will give his company — owner of CNN, Turner and HBO — the chance to "get on equal footing" with digital advertising giants Facebook and Google, both of which have begun to buy original video content in an effort to compete for TV-sized ad buys. It's the same justification that Verizon has given for building up its ad technology capabilities and buying AOL and Yahoo. 

"It's hard to get on equal footing with them," said Bewkes. He noted that with AT&T, the company will be able to innovate faster and increase its distribution, especially on mobile devices. "It's good for Americans," he added. 

It is for those reasons that Bewkes is not worried about the deal passing regulatory review. When pressed whether having Donald Trump as president changes that process, the exec said, "I don't think who is occupying the White House really changes that." 

The conversation stayed political as Bewkes fielded questions about CNN's handling of the 2016 election and whether its frequent interviews with and coverage of Trump impacted the outcome of the race, something Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has criticized the mainstream media for in the months since her loss. Bewkes noted that the race was unconventional for both parties. "We had unpredicted outcomes," he added. "We were simply trying to cover it." 

Meanwhile, Bewkes clarified his position on Netflix, which has become a rival to HBO as a buyer of premium television programming. He called the streamer "a valued customer that has been giving us a lot of money." And while in the past the exec has said he would consider holding back content from Netflix and other streamers, Bewkes ended the talk saying of past licensing deals, "We don't regret it." 

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