I have become a fan of Jeff Bewkes. Mr. Bewkes is the CEO of Time Warner and the face of Big Media. He is charismatic, intelligent, and well informed. Lately, Jeff has been charged with selling the sustainability of Old New Media. In other words, Mr. Bewkes is trying to explain how the forces that helped Cable TV disrupt Broadcast TV will not help Internet TV disrupt Cable TV. Whether you get your entertainment from an antenna, a wire, or a dish; whether your remote is marked Comcast, Dish, or Roku; whether your movie channel is HBO, Netflix, or This, you should pay attention to the guy whose job is to control the evolution of entertainment. I’ve posted links to interesting interviews at the end of this.
“I want [Time Warner] to be more profitable even than it is and I’d like it to continue to cement the position that we actually have…”
Mr. Bewkes claims that content plus distribution gives Big Media an unassailable advantage over all comers. In markets where the only broadband provider is the cable company and there is no broadcast television, this is true. Even when there are alternatives, separating distribution from content rarely saves consumers enough to warrant a mixed marriage. When Comcast was my provider, I was frequently warned that Netflix was using a lot of my ‘unlimited’ internet. I often suspected that my Netflix connection was throttled. When I attempted to ‘shave’ my cable services, my bill changed very little due to loss of ‘bundle’ discounts. So, I agree with Mr. Bewkes that content plus distribution is a powerful combination, I also warn him that he collects zero revenues from a once lucrative stream — me. It’s not a good idea to alienate your customers.
“What’s good for consumers has to be the priority…”
Mr. Bewkes contends that his industry continues to provide more value while holding costs down and promises to make all content available in any location at any time on any device at no additional cost. Again, my experience was different. Every year that I had cable, the amount of programming available ‘on any device’ was less until, this year, the FCC has allowed the cable companies to encrypt basic tier cable. At the same time, the cost of having cable devices in my home has risen dramatically. While there are more channels, I would argue that the content is less compelling. Since when, afterall, is Bill Mahar something I’d go to a box office to watch? And who spends $200 a month on coffee?
“Cord cutting is very, very skewed to low income houses that don’t have broadband.”
Mr. Bewkes claims that his customer base is growing not contracting. He says that, “cord cutting is very, very skewed to low income houses that don’t have broadband.” Mr. Bewkes says ‘cord nevers’ and ‘cord shavers’ are a media creation. I can’t agree. I have a six figure income and have had internet access since Prodigy was a player. The growth of Netflix, Prime, and Roku challenges his assertion that cable is a very satisfying experience.
Mr. Bewkes says that internet streams are not as high quality as cable. He fails to mention that cable feeds are not as high quality as broadcast. In my opinion, all three systems can deliver amazing quality to the right receiver.
Mr. Bewkes does not believe people want a la carte service. He believes that people want the broadest choice of the best programming and that this would be too expensive a la carte. Absent Big Media, these would not be available. PBS much, Mr. Bewkes?
Pay attention to Jeff Bewkes. While reassuring Big Media pundits that Rome is safe from the encroaching barbarians, he is building a wall around the empire. Using technology, legislation, and litigation Bewkes and his Big Media cronies are working diligently to protect their lucrative monopoly.
- International Council 2012 NYC: Innovation Without Borders
- Charlie Rose May 2012
- The Future of Television May 2012