Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes expressed bullishness Wednesday on CNN’s prospects, but said the network has to find a way to boost viewership outside
wide-interest breaking news.
“CNN can’t just mean politics and wars,” he said. “We will cover those, but we don’t need to start a war to have success at CNN.” He cited the need to be more of a player in the morning, where a new show is coming in June.
Bewkes touted new talent such as Jake Tapper, Chris Cuomo (who will be a morning co-host) and Rachel Nichols -- as well as Anthony Bourdain, who has a new show. Plus, he's “optimistic” CNN can “become the destination for compelling TV all the time” under new chief Jeff Zucker.
In the quarter, hurt by CNN’s declining dollars, the company said domestic ad revenues were up about 5%, helped by the Turner entertainment brands. Overall, Time
Warner reported flat revenue of $6.9 billion. Profit rose to $720 million from $583 million.
The CNN unit saw domestic ad dollars fall in the first quarter by some 10%, although the company said there has been an improvement since the end of March. Bewkes also said CNN should benefit from new affiliate agreements.
Separately, speaking on an earnings call, Bewkes said the coming spinoff of Time Inc. was partly rooted in “relatively small” synergies between the magazine publisher and other company units. The divestiture, he said, should provide plenty of financial benefits for Time Inc. as well as help it “attract, retain and reward talent with equity that’s directly tied to its own performance.”
Once Time Inc. is gone, some 90% of Time Warner profits will be rooted in its TV operations and 80% from cable networks that stretch from CNN to HBO to TBS.