Time Warner CEO: No thanks to big media deals

Jeff Bewkes says the company is not interested in bidding on NBC Universal or any other big media company because those deals typically fail.

Time Warner is not interested in a bidding war for NBC Universal, according to Jeff Bewkes, CEO of the media conglomerate.

Bewkes, who was being interviewed Friday for The Atlantic's First Draft of History conference at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., said big media mergers hardly ever work.

Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner chairman and CEO Time Warner

"Some deals work in media, but most have not," he added. "Over the past 10 to 15 years, there is a very low percentage of deals that have delivered what they would deliver, in terms of return on investment."

After the interview, which was streamed live online, Bewkes told a Reuters News service reporter why his company isn't interested in bidding for NBC Universal. Earlier this week, reports surfaced that Comcast, the largest cable operator in the United States, is in talks to buy a controlling stake in the media company, owned by General Electric and Vivendi.

"There's no real need or benefit for us to take on the various aspects of NBC," Bewkes told Reuters in an interview at the conference. "We have a lot of good things, and so we don't see that as particularly attractive."

Time Warner knows a thing or two about failed mergers. In 2000, it acquired AOL in a stock deal that was valued at the time at about $160 billion. When the merger was first announced, it was hailed as a major milestone, a historic marriage of online media and print and broadcast media. But only a few years into the merger, it became apparent that the deal was doomed. By 2008, Time Warner had confirmed that it was dumping AOL altogether .

Since taking the helm as CEO of Time Warner in 2008, Bewkes has tried to keep Time Warner focused on its core business of creating content. Instead of acquiring new properties and diversifying the business, Bewkes has made cuts. Besides spinning off AOL, he also shed the company of its cable division .

While Bewkes may not see a need to merge with another big media company, he does see the importance of partnering with other players, such as Comcast. Earlier this year, the companies announced that they were testing service that allows Comcast cable subscribers to view online TV shows and movies from several Time Warner cable channels, such as TNT and TBS.

Bewkes said expanding access to TV shows and movies online will actually grow the audience for its content.

"With HBO, we learned that putting shows on demand increased viewership," he said. "So viewership goes up, and viewers get to watch (what) they want, when they want. And they get to select their favorite shows from their favorite channels."

Other changes in the media business that Bewkes predicts includes the end of print magazines and newspapers. Instead, he envisions people using e-readers such as the Amazon.com Kindle to get access to periodicals. He said that soon, many manufacturers will have e-readers on the market and that these devices will be much more affordable for average consumers.

Separately, Bewkes told Bloomberg that the company was not interested in selling its Time Inc. magazine unit.

 

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