Bewkes: Expect Decision On VOD For Theatrical Releases By First Half 2011

“TV Everywhere,” VOD for recent movie releases, and combined print and digital subscriptions dominated Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes’ introduction of the company’s Q3 earnings call. He expects to announce VOD for new releases by the second quarter of next year. “It’s just about trying to find the right window at the right prices,” Bewkes said. Meanwhile, one of the other noteworthy points made during the call: Time Inc.’s digital publishing revenues grew 20 percent in Q3.

He then touched on progress on the “TV Everywhere” front, which allows cable subscribers to watch shows on their PCs. Acknowledging Disney’s TV Everywhere distribution of ESPN (NYSE: DIS) via Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Bewkes noted that so far, TNT and TBS have been launched TV Everywhere access to Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) and Dish Network (NSDQ: DISH) subs. “Some form of TV Everywhere is offered to 50 million homes and we expect it will be 70 million by the second quarter — six months ahead of schedule,” Bewkes said.

Cord cutting: During the Q&A, Bewkes dismissed expectations about cable subs “cutting their cords.” But even if it did happen, viewers are attached to brands who produce the programming and that will supercede changes in how consumers get their video entertainment. “We doubt we’re going to see [cord-cutting], though we’ll all watch for it,” he said. “If you look at TV viewing across the networks, the trends remain pretty healthy. If you take all these networks — not just ours, but industrywide — and have them on-demand, we believe it will strengthen TV viewing; we’ve seen this with HBO, in fact. In the long run, with the viewers’ preferences that they love these networks, if you have to reach them through other devices, we think the the network brand is strong in either case.”

HBO Go-ing?: Asked about the delay of HBO Go’s rollout, It’s being distributed by Comcast and Verizon. Every one of our distributors, including satellite, are launching as quickly as they can. It will be out widely by the end of this year and pretty much everywhere by Q2 next year. Meanwhile, Verizon FiOS TV customers that subscribe to Cinemax recently got access to, the “TV Everywhere” portal for HBO’s sister channel.

Ads and TV Everywhere: Bewkes also sought dispel any questions about whether advertisers are concerned about pricing for on-demand or live on TV Everywhere in the case of TBS and TNT. “The advertisers love it, you should ask them,” he said. “There aren’t any different rates for media buyers depending on whether you watched it on demand or live — it’s all the same buy.”

Publishing turnaround
: The topic of Time Inc. and its magazines didn’t come all that much. Earlier, Bewkes had mentioned the hiring of Meredith (NYSE: MDP) exec Jack Griffin to succeed the retiring Ann Moore as CEO of the publishing unit last month. Later on, CFO John Martin pointed to “numerous avenues of growth.” Traditional print advertising is in a cyclical rebound, for one thing he said, though it’s uncertain how long that will continue. Still, the company remains optimistic he said.

Subscription trends, however, remain “challenging, but stable.” Ultimately, there are larger forces industrywide depressing subscriptions. Lastly, Martin pointed to the increasing opportunity for ad sales on tablets, which appear more positive than previously thought.