CEO Bewkes Backs Google TV, Sees ‘Massive’ Competition for Netflix, Hulu
The chief executive of Time Warner Inc. said he is turning to Google Inc. as an ally in his push to bring cable shows to users across various devices and that the Web giant’s new service for accessing and searching Internet programming on TVs isn’t the threat many television distributors fear.
Jeffrey Bewkes, who oversees a company that includes the TNT, TBS and HBO cable networks, also predicted a “massive amount of competition” for Netflix Inc. and Hulu LLC as more content owners make their TV shows available through operators on demand and online and as cable and satellite companies improve their experiences.
“When all of the content on the big screen works like the content on the little screen what will happen? The programming will trump the interface,” he said.
Mr. Bewkes’s comments come as media executives are agonizing over which new Internet distributors to supply shows to and whether to pursue new digital distribution methods on their own. Hulu and Netflix had no comment.
Time Warner has been championing a model it calls “TV Everywhere,” allowing cable and satellite subscribers to watch the TV shows they pay for in their traditional TV bundles online, free.
Tuesday Mr. Bewkes said that Time Warner, which already has deals to enable Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. subscribers to watch shows from its cable networks online, has or is close to finalizing similar deals with Dish Network Corp., DirecTV Group Inc., AT&T Inc. and other cable operators as well.
Monday, the company also endorsed the Google TV technology, saying it would optimize some of its television websites, including those of TNT, TBS and CNN, for viewing on TVs carrying Google TV. It said it would do the same with its HBO GO website, through which some viewers who subscribe to the premium cable channel can watch its shows online. The arrangement isn’t a business deal.
Google is working with several partners to build televisions and boxes carrying its software. Logitech International SA plans to discuss its set-top box running Google’s new software Wednesday.
NBC Universal’s CNBC network and the NBA also announced they would build Google TV software applications that provide access to content like financial news and sports scores. Other television networks—including the major broadcast networks—have largely been mum about whether they plan to work with Google’s service.
Mr. Bewkes said Time Warner is tailoring its content to the Internet giant’s new Internet-connected TV venture because he believes Google’s service will help discovery of its shows and provide another way for users who already pay for access to their cable channels to view them.
“It basically allows more and more people to find their favorite networks,” he said, adding that Google isn’t seeking to provide any connectivity service or land any rights to content on its own. “They are more helpful than necessary.” he said, adding Google engineers are helping Time Warner tailor its websites to TVs of various shapes and sizes.
After spinning off Time Warner Cable in 2009, Mr. Bewkes has been liberated to focus on the interests of the media giant’s content businesses and has been pushing TV Everywhere.
He said Time Warner’s current TV Everywhere deals extend to around 25 million households and that, industry-wide, he expects in a year that 70 million households will be able to sign into a website to watch their cable programming free.
The concept has drawn some interest from other media companies, such as Viacom Inc., which owns the MTV and Comedy Central cable networks. Cable operators are keen on it as a way to line up the rights to show the content online as a way to prevent consumers from canceling their cable subscriptions or from watching other Internet services.
One of those rivals is Hulu, which is continuing to receive strong backing from some major broadcasters. General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are investors in Hulu, which is supplementing its crop of recent television episodes with a subscription service offering older episodes and the ability to watch Hulu on other devices like TVs. News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Bewkes said that Hulu and Netflix, which offers a streaming television and movie service, have garnered attention because they have created a great experience for accessing content on smaller screens. But he said that as Google, Apple and paid-television operators improve the experience on large TVs, people will prefer to watch on demand on their TVs.