Turner Broadcasting CEO Sees Only Minor Netflix Effect on Kids TV Ratings

Phil Kent CEO Turner - P 2011
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Phil Kent CEO Turner - P 2011

Phil Kent also reiterates at an investor conference that "I'm very unhappy with the ratings" of CNN.

The availability of kids TV shows on Netflix is only a small, contributing factor in the recent ratings challenges of such networks as Viacom's Nickelodeon, Turner Broadcasting System chairman and CEO Phil Kent told an investor conference on Thursday.

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Speaking at the Nomura 2nd Annual U.S. Media & Telecom Summit, the head of the Time Warner unit said: "I do not believe that having a lot of these shows on Netflix has been the most determining factor. It is a contributing factor, a marginal factor."

Sometimes programming "just gets tired," Kent suggested, highlighting that Turner also bounced back in the ratings with Cartoon Network after some challenges.
"They'll address their issues, too," he predicted about Nickelodeon. 
The key to deciding digital and other licensing deals is that "you have to protect your rights appropriate to the network and genre," he said.
Kent also once again emphasized that he and TW management are disappointed by CNN's viewership, which hit a 20-year low in primetime for the month of May. "I'm very unhappy with the ratings," he told the Nomura audience.
Kent said the problem is 50 percent news flow and 50 percent "self-inflicted."
CNN has typically done well in "hot news environments," such as the start of 2011, which saw ratings spikes thanks to the Arab spring, Japanese earthquake and other news. He said that while the U.S. presidential election has been "pretty boring to people" over the past couple of months, but he expressed hope that the race would heat up.
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Discussing the self-inflicted part of CNN's ratings challenges, Kent said: "We haven't put the best shows on the air," although some have "high potential." 
For example, he called Anderson Cooper an "unequivocal TV news star who at the moment is not getting star ratings" due to a weak lead-in.
Addressing Piers Morgan's performance, Kent said "I feel great about Piers." He highlighted that when he interviews people who are in the news in a meaningful way, his show seems to work better.
If CNN raises "the quality of these shows and make them a little bit surprising, the ratings will be just fine," Kent predicted.
He also added that despite a recent report, Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes is not hammering him every day about CNN's ratings. 
The Turner boss once again vowed to continue TNT's and TBS' increased focus on more original programming. 
And he explained a reduced focus on blockbuster movies, saying that his team is more interested in less expensive films that can draw a solid rating 25 times instead of big ratings once. That said, Turner will continue to buy some blockbusters given they allow for strong promotions.
He also said that only one sports rights deal is coming up in the next two years for his company.
Turner would "very much" like to keep Major League Baseball rights, he said. Asked about his interest in some NFL games, he said "we'll take a really hard look at it."
Walking away from the NFL in the mid to late 1990s was a mistake, because it helped ESPN, even though his company has done well since, Kent said. "We all know what it did for ESPN," he said. "It was a gift on a silver platter."
Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai