Time Warner must focus on being “the most profitable, not the biggest” entertainment company, and his team must concentrate on boosting the stock “now,” CEO designate Jeffrey Bewkes said Wednesday in his first public appearance since being tapped for the promotion.
That seemed in line with expectations that he will cut corporate costs and sell off slow-growing properties.
In an appearance at the Media and Money conference, organized by Dow Jones and Hollywood Reporter parent The Nielsen Company, Bewkes wouldn’t show his cards on rumored possible asset sales and spin-offs of TW Cable, AOL and Time Inc., but signaled there could indeed be reasons for such moves down the line.
He declined to comment on the possible timing of such moves, saying TW wants to “sneak up” on its competitors more than in the past with strategic moves.
Asked about the current writers strike, Bewkes said it won’t have “any material adverse financial impact on us this year.” He added he expects to have the labor issue resolved before it can start hurting TW’s finances next year.
“We all have respect for them,” he said about the writers before calling for a “fair and seasonable solution.”
Bewkes also signaled that entertainment business models may change amid technological and international growth.
For example, he said that instead of charging movie-goers $8 or more, companies could charge less in return for a bigger audience. “What if you got only $1 per ticket, but 6 billion (people) see (the film)” for no major extra cost, he said.
Bewkes once famously said that talk of corporate synergies is “bullshit.”
On Wednesday, he said there is some synergy, but it’s not always so much about money but also talent and other relationships. “Writers and producers come to us first” because TW owns industry-leading TV networks and film operations, he argued.
Bewkes went on to argue that the primary reason to own certain businesses is not synergy, but to run them well and position them as industry leaders.
In his clearest signal to date that he will likely sell or spin off some units, Bewkes also acknowledged that some benefits of having various operations under one conglomerate umbrella “doesn’t mean you have to have it the way you have it now.”
Asked if he ever considered turning down the CEO position as such jobs seem short-lived and less fun these days, Bewkes replied: “I think it actually is (fun.)” Asked about activist shareholders and other people mingling with his affairs, Bewkes replied those are “just people with more advice.”