Time Warner: Flixster Is Key to Cloud-Based Content Plans

CFO John Martin also says that the company's cable networks will look to boost the "bargain" price carriage fees they charge pay TV operators.

NEW YORK - Time Warner will in the coming months outline in more detail its strategy for  cloud-based content storage, and recently acquired Flixster will play a key role as the consumer interface, CFO John Martin said here Wednesday.

Asked about the still sluggish home entertainment market at the Barclays Capital Global Communications, Media, and Technology Conference, he said the transition to digital will help counter continued weakness of DVD sales. He particularly argued that new technology will make content ownership, rather than rentals, more appealing, he said.

Martin said Flixster will serve as the company's consumer-facing application that will be "plugged into Ultraviolet," the industry-wide effort to enable anywhere, anytime access to content via the cloud.
Through that interface, consumers will be able to upload their current DVDs, buy or rent films, the cost for which can be charged to their stored credit cards, and interact with social media offers, which will allow them to see friends' film collections, for example, he said.

"It's a very big idea," Martin concluded.

Discussing the Warner Bros. filmed entertainment unit further, Martin reiterated the expectation that it will report a record profit this year driven by big franchise films, such as the final Harry Potter release, and the syndication of Big Bang Theory, which will give the unit a record year in syndication.

Martin said the company feels that its about 20-25 films a year is about the right amount of output for TW.

Meanwhile, TW's Turner cable networks unit will look to boost the carriage fees it charges pay TV operators, Martin reiterated Wednesday, arguing that current rates are "a bargain" for TV distributors.

Martin on Wednesday also said that upfront advertising dealmaking hasn't started, but reiterated it should be an "extremely robust" upfront, and TW's Turner networks will perform at the high end of the industry range.

Advertisers who are planning for alternatives in case the NFL doesn't happen "might also help us" in the upfront sales process, he said.

Asked about Turner networks' ratings trends, Martin acknowledged some weakness at aging shows acquired by TBS and TNT, which will require a freshened-up lineup. He pointed to such coming shows as Big Bang Theory, which will come to TBS, and The Mentalist, which will later this year launch on TNT.
Sports programming has been "on fire" though, Martin said, pointing to NCAA and NBA basketball ratings.

Martin also once again touted the growth outlook for TW's international TV business. He reiterated that the company wants to double its operating profit from its international assets here over the next four years to $1 billion - and that is without possible acquisitions.

In India, TW is losing money for now, but will eventually turn a profit, even though Martin said India could be a bit more of a longer-term bet.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai