Jeff Bewkes Eyes Hulu as TV Everywhere Solution8 Dec, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes Dec. 8 upped speculation on a possible fiscal stake in Hulu — provided the over-the-top video platform could meld the pay-TV ecosystem with an on-demand consumer.
In a year that has seen OTT video migrate from niche to mainstream distribution, Bewkes remains frustrated pay-TV subscribers can’t readily watch TV shows on demand, including catalog episodes, across myriad portable devices.
“Watching TV should be a seamless experience across all user interfaces,” Bewkes told attendees at UBS's 43rd Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.
Time Warner, including subsidiaries TBS, TNT and HBO, has been a long-time advocate of TV Everywhere, the on-demand proposed antidote to subscription streaming services such as Netflix that has thus far not resonated with subscribers.
With media reports suggesting Time Warner is considering a major financial investment in Hulu — the OTT video service co-owned by The Walt Disney Co., 21 Century Fox and Comcast — Bewkes was asked if Hulu could be the answer to consumers looking for ubiquitous access to programming.
“Hulu could be part of the solution because it’s [already] out there,” Bewkes said, while refusing to comment directly on investment in the service or press reports “about us on that.”
But the executive did opine that Hulu is a “pretty good service,” while at the same time extending an offer to other services interested in bridging the digital divide with pay-TV
“It’d be nice if [Hulu is] one of the entities that could help. We like anybody who can help with this interface problem. We’ll meet you out there if you have a solution to it and try and help you get in,” Bewkes said.
Time Warner’s rumored fiscal interest in Hulu is interesting considering Bewkes — in the company's most recent fiscal call — called for a moratorium licensing content to SVOD, specifically to Netflix.
The executive said he still believes SVOD access to TV programs does not hurt broadcast ratings. Instead, consumers having the ability via SVOD to catch-up on episodes, including the premiere, will likely drive greater interest in the current season TV broadcast.
“It’s a little different to say SVOD hurts TV ratings … because young people can’t get SVOD of the show over in the normal place [pay-TV] it premiers,” Bewkes said.
Meanwhile, the CEO said ongoing concern surrounding declining pay-TV subs and TV ratings remains overblown.
“We haven’t seen any type of tipping point disruption,” he said.