Time Warner CEO Touts Movies Business, Says Warner Could Have Another Record Year

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Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes

UPDATED: Jeff Bewkes disagrees with Jeff Katzenberg's suggestion that film isn't a growth business, touts the outlook for HBO and is bullish on ratings turnarounds at CNN, TruTV and TNT.

Time Warner expects to grow its adjusted operating earnings at least in the low to mid t‎een percentage range for at least the next three or four years, CEO Jeff Bewkes said during a bullish earnings conference call Wednesday, in which he also predicted that the box-office success of The Lego Movie could create an "evergreen" film franchise.

Bewkes was also asked about DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg's suggestion that TV was a growth business, but film was not, disagreeing with the comment. "Well, maybe it's for him," Bewkes said about the suggestion about the film business. "We've been doing fine in movies...We don't agree with that view."

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Said Bewkes: "We think we are going to have a record year in 2014." But he cautioned that given tough year-over-year comparisons amid a record 2013, that wasn't 100 percent sure yet.  

He added that DWA's business in animation was "different." Bewkes cited growth in international markets, which he said have been particularly strong for event films that Warner focuses on. 


He also predicted continued strong double digit growth in the conglomerate's U.S. subscriber revenue at Turner for years to come, including beyond 2016, through which it has said it would see strong gains. Bewkes said deals struck recently have provided strong growth through 2018.


And Bewkes said he "feels great" about HBO's ability to grow for many years to come, with the premium network arm planning to reinvest added revenue from a recent Amazon content deal in its originals, as well as marketing and technology.


On the film side, Bewkes on Wednesday touted that Warner Bros. won "more Academy Awards than all studios combined" this year, particularly citing honors for Gravity.


‎He also reiterated that there will be a follow-up to The Lego Movie in 2017, saying Lego could become a key new franchise. It "has an opportunity to be an evergreen," the CEO said, comparing it to Time Warner's DC Comics franchise.


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At Turner, Bewkes said "we also have momentum at CNN." He particularly touted its digital strength, such as its monthly uniques and mobile usage. 


But the Time Warner CEO also said that his team was not happy with recent ratings weakness at key Turner networks, such as TruTV and TNT. 


TruTV has new unscripted projects in the works though and expects to "materially improve" its ability to monetize its audience over time, Bewkes said.


TNT also "can and will do better," he said, highlighting that it has "not taken enough creative risk" in recent years and therefore lost ground with younger audiences. 


Bewkes said changes at the networks have been put in place, but will take time.


During Wednesday's call, Time Warner management also said it has seen some softness in the advertising scatter market, especially in sports.


E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai