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Time Warner President: 'Release Windows Will Converge'

11 Jan, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The ever-shrinking window separating a movie's theatrical and DVD releases won't collapse this year, but will eventually converge, according to Jeff Bewkes, president and COO of Time Warner Inc.

Speaking to investors at a media entertainment conference in Phoenix, Bewkes said the time between a theatrical release and its DVD release has been shrinking for some time.

“It will continue to get closer partly because as new distribution capabilities such as cable, satellite and online get more robust, the abilities they bring to both consumers and producers to deliver the product gets more realistic,” said Bewkes.

Time Warner ended 2005 atop the entertainment world with film box office revenues up 15 percent (four movies topped $200 million in domestic box office) despite an overall downturn in the number of people going to the movies.

Bewkes said not all movies move through release windows at the same time, and, in fact, many are customized. Bewkes cited The Polar Express, which he said did fantastic business on DVD (11 million units sold since its Nov. 22 release) despite an 11-month delay since its Christmas theatrical release in 2004.

“It does depend how the product is doing in the theatre but as a general rule, I think they [release windows] will converge over time,” he said.

The COO heralded the advent of the Apple video iPod but cautioned that video, unlike music, already has a lot of distribution options, including theatre, DVD, pay-per-view, VOD, commercial TV and cable.

“The video food chain allows for all that stuff,” Bewkes said. “If you take that chain and the windows shrink and the prices come down, you potentially have a product people want to see whenever and we can still compete with better packaging and added-value offerings.Going digital is not just happening now, it has been happening for a while and it is good for us.”

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