Time Warner CEO gets a grilling at 'D'

Jeff Bewkes finds himself on the hot seat on everything from the AOL merger to the company's current strategies.

Updated at 3:47 p.m. PDT to include questions from audience.

CARLSBAD, Calif.--Yahoo's Jerry Yang and Sue Decker may have gotten a tough time from Walt Mossberg, but perhaps they should consider themselves lucky.

Next up at the D6 conference here was Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. A humorous video poked plenty of fun at the executive culminating in a discussion of whether D host Kara Swisher would cut off Bewkes' genitalia.

Jeff Bewkes
Jeff Bewkes Time Warner

Clearly prepared, Bewkes came onstage covering his crotch.

Probably a good idea. In the first 30 seconds, Swisher fired off questions on everything from The Sopranos ending to, "Why the hell did you pay $850 million for Bebo?"

The grilling is continuing as I type this, and is now on to the AOL merger.

"Would you like to unload AOL?"

"No," Bewkes said.

Amid the thrashing, Bewkes said he knew what Swisher was really thinking, pointing to how the company had transitioned from a subscription to largely free ad-supported business still earning $2 billion a year.

"Yeah, no," Swisher said. "I'm thinking you missed a lot of great opportunities."

Swisher pointed specifically to social networking, saying it should have been AOL, not Facebook, that capitalized on that move.

"It is our fault," Bewkes said. "That's true."

The grilling didn't end with Swisher, however. When she opened it up to questions, the audience was hostile as well.

The first question was about why Time Warner gives an hour of air time to Lou Dobbs' views, drawing a smattering of applause from the crowd. Next up was a Yahoo executive, armed with ComScore numbers, taking issue with many of the categories in which Bewkes had claimed to be No. 1. Bewkes said he had meant to say No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3.

Swisher said the questions raised by the Yahoo executive were a bit like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Click here for full coverage of the D: All Things Digital conference.

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About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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