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Time Warner CEO: DVD Market Descent Slowing

30 May, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Time Warner

Despite the negative impact the recession had on first-quarter packaged media sales (down more than 10%) DVD sales have again stabilized, according to Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner Inc.

Time Warner subsidiaries including Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Home Video.

Speaking May 29 at Sanford Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York, Bewkes said it is common knowledge that the DVD market has become a maturity issue whose decline has slowed. He said disc sales at Warner Home Video in April improved significantly. Key drivers, though significantly smaller in revenue than standard DVD, have been Blu-ray, electronic sellthrough and VOD.

“Overall, we are not seeing a huge amount of unpredictable or declining trends,” Bewkes said. "We are seeing a relative advantage for us and some stabilizing in the market going on.”

The CEO said the decision to separate from AOL would take about six months to consummate depending whether the Internet pioneer is split or spun off. The new AOL would have its own board with a debt level largely based on assets. Bewkes said AOL has a healthy cash flow that theoretically “could support some debt.”

He said the proliferation of network repurposed TV content on Hulu by Disney (ABC), Fox, NBC and CBS (on TV.com) made sense when you realize what programming is being given away.

Bewkes said it wasn’t likely ESPN, the Disney Channel, Bravo and Sci Fi Channel would be seen on Hulu any time soon considering the lucrative license fees they generate from cable and satellite operators.

“Did they put any of those on free Internet? No, because they are smart,” he said.

Bewkes, whose is a proponent of the so-called “TV Anywhere” business model, said availability of network programming on broadband should be free provided viewers have separate paid subscriptions for those channels.

“If you’ve got it in your home [legally], you can have it for free on the Internet,” he said.

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