Programming

Bewkes: Age of the Media Mogul is Over

Addresses rise of media corporations, content distribution at Paley Center Intl. Council 11/17/2010 05:20:17 PM Eastern

According to Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, the era of the media mogul is over.

"I think we're in the era of global corporations. The old era of the media mogul were about powerful personalities, they created stars and that fueled their power. It's now big companies [like Apple and Google] that are the stars," Bewkes explained during a conversation with the New York Times' David Carr at the Paley Center for Media's 2010 International Council meeting in New York Wednesday afternoon.

Bewkes says one of the greatest challenges facing media companies today is whether they restrict consumers' free choice by limiting where producers can place their content.

"The old companies [like] Warner Brothers, Fox, are sharing a world with new companies like Google and Apple. These new companies have 75 percent share or more of the areas they're in," he said. "Whoever has the most users, has the most volume and they can do the most innovation. By being there first, they can set the tone for everyone else."

"I don't buy it," Carr retorted. "Because [Apple's] lead in phones looked unstoppable. And yet, in comes Droid, in comes Google, and they're selling a lot of handsets. So, I know there's a first mover advantage, but those guys can be knocked off a mountain just like any other business."

"I'm glad he said it--he's right," Bewkes replied, speaking to the audience. "So keep that in mind."

On the rise of Netflix, Bewkes said he's not worried about Time Warner's "TV Everywhere" concept "antagonizing" the company. He explained that while Netflix's convenience of subscription access is undeniably good for viewers, timing when content is released on platforms like VOD, DVD and in theaters remains crucial.

"What you don't want to do its undervalue the content. It wouldn't make sense if we were putting a movie in a theater and put it out by subscription at the same time. [Then] why would you go to the theater?" Bewkes said. "At home, you're paying for convenience, and it depends on whether you're getting that home entertainment from a DVD or directly through your TV. The industry has been pretty aggressive and innovative about VOD. If everyone here wants to go to a theater, that can't exist unless there is a reasonable infrastructure. There has to be an economic model to pay for it."

Carr also directed the conversation closer to home for Bewkes, asking whether CNN, with its middle-ground, straightforward news reporting, can truly compete with peers like Fox and MSNBC who have more politically-slanted coverage.

Bewkes said a tilt is in no way necessary for a successful business.

"You can prove it. ABC, CBS, NBC--you're not going say that they aim to be on a spectrum, right or left, on the news. They try to be broad spectrum TV news. There's plenty of business and interest in trying to present all the news objectively. And objectively does not mean without a point of view. It includes [all] points of view," he said.

So while its objectivity may be no obstacle, Bewkes did acknowledge that the network still has plenty of room for improvement.

"We have to do a better job in programming the news. It's not that you can't do all-inclusive news that covers all parts of the political spectrum. It's just that you have to do it in an accessible, understandable and interesting way," he said. "And that's what we have to be better at."

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