Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes has never been a fan of online TV streaming services, even as his company signed over some of its content to Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) for online streaming. Bewkes, not surprisingly, has much preferred TV Everywhere-style offerings tied to premium cable TV subscriptions, and may have been the first programming executive to publicly promote TV Everywhere by name back in 2008.
Bewkes, who once compared the competitive threat of Netflix to the military prowess of the Albanian army, renewed his criticism of such platforms in a Financial Times interview this weekend, saying that Netflix's modest membership fees will not allow it to keep pace with media giants in paying for content distribution rights. Bewkes also added this colorful assessment of Netflix:
"It can do certain things and not other things. It can fly, it's not a submarine," he said. "Don't turn a hamburger into a cow."
Netflix has had a tough few months since subscription fee hikes and service changes began to drive streaming subscribers away, not long after Netflix and other online offerings were seen as increasingly viable threats to traditional pay TV. The streaming providers also may face new challenges as more broadband service providers move to usage caps and usage-based billing that could keep more Internet users from watching video online.
However, as Bewkes continues to slam Netflix, he also acknowledges that the traditional pay TV providers have not done enough to back the TV Everywhere concept that he helped to introduce. True to form, he seems to be reminding both the newcomers and the incumbents in the TV game that content is still king.
- see this Financial Times story (sub. req.)
Bewkes has long disputed the pay TV cord-cutting trend
Craig Moffett believes cable companies will pursue usage billing