Time Warner CEO Urges Peers on TV Everywhere, UltraViolet

2. Jeff Bewkes
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Chairman and CEO of Time Warner

From the Time Warner Center in Midtown Manhattan, Bewkes oversees Hollywood's most profitable studio, Warner Bros., which has scored with the Harry Potter juggernaut; cable networks including HBO, CNN, TNT and TBS; and increasingly digital magazines including Time, People and Sports Illustrated. Bewkes led Time Warner to $5.4 billion in operating profit last year, exceeded only by West Coast-based Disney.

"The media business, and the TV business in particular, has thrived," but more needs to be done, says Jeffrey Bewkes, arguing that Hollywood is "at a fork in the road" when it comes to the digital transformation.

NEW YORK - "The media business, and the TV business in particular, has thrived" in recent years despite concerns about digital challenges, Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeffrey Bewkes told an investor conference on Tuesday.

But he urged his peers to make more content available on new platforms in authentication deals with pay TV operators to take full advantage and urged those distributors to focus on better user interfaces and easy authentication processes. At one stage, he even pushed the investment community to push distributors.

Bewkes also touted the UltraViolet initiative, which has seen Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. join to make cloud-based digital copies of movies available, as key to enabling consumers to buy, instead of rent, films, which he said more people would do as long as it was easy and convenient enough.

"We are at a fork in the road, and it needs effective execution," Bewkes said, arguing that digital content availability is still running behind consumer demand. "We have to move much faster." Progress on this front will keep industry executives as happy as he said he is today, the CEO argued.

Speaking at the 20th annual Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Fla. in a session that was webcast, Bewkes said that it has become clear that subscription VOD providers like Netflix are "adding value to the TV business, not subtracting value" as content owners have become more thoughtful about their licensing decisions. There was concern in the past that SVOD would subsume the TV business, he added, but "you know it has been the other way around."

With TV nowadays being more cinematic and having higher production values along with bigger directors and actors, Bewkes said "this is the second golden age of TV," arguing that it is "better even probably than the first."

But Bewkes urged his peers that this is not the time to rest on one's laurels. How can the industry take further  advantage of the opportunity and give consumers more of what they want? "By far the most powerful way to do that is what we call Content Everywhere," or TV Everywhere, Bewkes said in arguing that all major TV networks should be available in authenticated form. "We do risk letting others take this opportunity" if the industry doesn't follow through with determination, he added.

Effective user interfaces, more content and more easily understood offers from TV distributors are all key, Bewkes said.

The strength and growth of the TV business, which he said has only gotten stronger, positions the whole industry, but particularly his entertainment conglomerate for more growth ahead, he argued. "Time Warner is basically a TV company" with over 80 percent of its profits from TV networks and its TV studio, Bewkes highlighted. Among the TV growth drivers are an increase in global TV subs by more than a third over the past four years, growing advertising revenue and higher TV syndication prices. Plus, in 2014, affiliate fee growth, which analysts have said has fallen behind peers, will pick up and could outperform, Bewkes said.

Overall, "the industry is more than okay," Bewkes said. It has prospered over the last few years and in key areas is healthier than ever.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai