Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes Bullish on Hulu Live4 May, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes may have a love/hate relationship with Netflix. That doesn’t mean he’s opposed to subscription streaming or over-the-top video. In fact, the executive embraces on-demand access to content, contending HBO has been video-on-demand pioneer long before the existence of SVOD.
Speaking on the company's May 4 fiscal call, Bewkes said OTT video and SVOD reflect evolving consumer habits toward consuming home entertainment. He said on-demand access underscores a “vibrant re-birth of the strength of TV networks and TV programming.” When asked if that includes embracing Hulu’s planned online TV service, Hulu Live, Bewkes concurred.
“Maybe we want every one of our networks in these OTT packages. I think we need to include that in a larger view of how the industry is evolving,” he said.
The executive credited OTT video for evolving the home entertainment experience through improved functionality, content guides, and recommendations — showcased by broadband delivered Sling TV, Charter Spectrum TV Plus, Comcast, DirecTV and Sony PlayStation Vue, among others.
“For us, whether it is the Turner or HBO, we have said we would like to see most of our networks — whichever exhibition window — first-run or syndication be on-demand,” Bewkes said. “We’re going to try and be available in all packages consumers are interested in.”
In the first quarter, HBO launched OTT service in Mexico, with additional launches slated for later this year in Spain, Brazil and Argentina. Warner acquired Korean-based DramaFever and SVOD service FilmStruck bowed from Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection.
“That’s all part of broader push across the company to sell services and capabilities,” Bewkes said.
Meanwhile, upping consumer access to on-demand episodes (stacking rights) of current TV shows has emerged as an incremental revenue driver. Warner and ABC in March announced a pact giving the network in-season stacking rights for all new series.
To Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, an architect of stacking rights, the strategy doesn’t undermine the backend (syndication, packaged media and streaming) value of TV shows.
“We’ve given Turner stacking rights. We sold stacking right to Fox TV for ‘Lucifer.’ We are having a number of conversations with all networks about stacking rights. It’s certainly a good thing for consumers,” he said.
Separately, Tsujihara doubted the sale of DreamWorks Animation to Comcast would spark further studio consolidation. He said that with film franchises key to studio profitability, the dearth of available franchises undermines heightened merger and acquisition scuttlebutt.
“I don’t think DWA is going to be a precursor to a lot of transactions.”