Turner's Martin: CNN to score 'record' profit of $1B in 2016

Turner CEO John Martin. Image: Turner

John Martin, chairman and CEO of Time Warner's Turner unit, boasted that the company’s CNN news operation is on track to report “its hall of fame year,” with a record profit of around $1 billion. He also added that CNN’s business could continue to rise in 2017 thanks to lower expenses (because the network won’t have to cover a presidential campaign) alongside higher affiliate-fee revenue and more original content – despite sluggish advertising revenue.

Martin’s comments, made last night at a Recode event, were partly in response to comments from President-elect Donald Trump, who recently tweeted:

"Please, failing?!" Martin said when asked about the tweet, according to a Hollywood Reporter article detailing his comments at the event. "I couldn't be more proud about how we covered the election.”

Indeed, Martin added that CNN would likely receive a boost in viewership thanks to general interest in the first year of Trump’s administration. He also said he believes CNN stands in a good position to cover 2017 relative to its competitors Fox News and MSNBC.

Interestingly, Martin also addressed AT&T’s ongoing efforts to close its purchase of Time Warner, an $85.4 billion transaction AT&T initially announced last month. Martin echoed comments from AT&T executives that Time Warner’s operations would remain largely untouched, and would continue to be run by media executives rather than telecom executives. He also said AT&T ownership of Time Warner could "super-charge” the company’s ability to leverage advanced technology in its operations.

Finally, in his comments, Martin also hinted that Time Warner may not license its programs to Netflix as it has in the past. Instead, he hinted that the company may want to retain a tighter ownership over its programming in order to offer its content through its own direct-to-consumer streaming subscription offerings.

Indeed, other content owners and media companies have made similar comments about licensing content to Netflix and other SVOD providers as the direct-to-consumer trend gains steam around offerings like HBO Now and CBS All Access.

In his role as chairman and CEO of Turner, Martin oversees brands including CNN, TBS, TNT, truTV and Cartoon Network. He scored a leadership role at the company in early 2014; previously, he was chief financial and administrative officer of Time Warner, overseeing Time Warner's finance, accounting, mergers and acquisitions, internal audit, investor relations, treasury and tax areas.