Executives at some of the largest media companies weighed in on several online video topics during quarterly earnings teleconferences this week. They were asked by stock analysts about topics such as Aereo's online distribution of TV signals and Netflix's (Nasdaq: NFLX) plans to be more selective about the programming it licenses.
Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) CEO Glenn Britt told analysts last week that he expects Aereo's legal cases are far from over and might not be decided until the Supreme Court weighs in. "If it is found to be legal, then I think it has very interesting implications for the whole broadcast and broadcast network ecosystem and for the future of retrans," he said.
Leslie Moonves, CBS's (NYSE: CBS) CEO, struck a slightly different tone. He told analysts CBS will continue to sue as Aereo deploys its service to new markets. Each time Aereo enters a new jurisdiction, CBS will be there with a lawsuit, he said, but also added Aereo is getting too much attention. "It's sort of an insignificant player," Moonves said. "We think, ultimately, that it goes away." Those comments in turn prompted Aereo to ask a federal court to block CBS from suing it in multiple jurisdictions.
Viacom (Nasdaq: VIA), Discovery, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) and CBS executives similarly downplayed the implications of Netflix's disclosure in its quarterly letter to shareholders that it is working with TV studios to be "better positioned to pick just those shows that we believe will work best." Moonves said CBS has a strong relationship with Netflix even if its lineup of shows available through the site changes over time. David Zaslav, Discovery Communications' CEO, had similar words this week. "We have a lot of good stuff, so I think we will do well," he said.
Likewise, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said his company is in constructive licensing talks with Netflix and other digital video distributors. Viacom's agreement with Netflix is set to expire this month. "We're open to licensing content, some of it on an exclusive basis, some of it on a non-exclusive basis," he said. "We continue to see digital distribution as a growing opportunity and one that will be complementary to what we do," he said.
Time Warner is also in active talks with all major subscription VOD distributors including Netflix and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), CEO Jeff Bewkes told analysts last week. But he was quick to downplay the importance of that revenue stream. It made up about 10 percent of the company's TV syndication revenue last year and 3 percent of total film and TV sales, he said. And if online video providers get more selective about the content they are willing to license, all the better for Time Warner, he said. "To the extent that a Netflix, or frankly all SVOD providers become more selective, we've got the best shows and we think that demand is going to go up," CFO John Martin added.
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