Time Warner's Long-Time Network Flirtation Now Changes Little

Time Warner mulling a possible NBC smells like another potentially big deal of years past -- one that didn't live up to expectations.  

When asked about an NBC Universal purchase at a recent investor's conference, CEO Jeff Bewkes was quick to point out what even NBC Universal president/CEO Jeff Zucker has mentioned many times -- that the bulk of the company profits, more than 50% of its net earnings, is driven by its cable channels.

Bewkes said Time Warner doesn't need a broadcast network, that the company's interests are in cable networks. Viacom's president and CEO Philippe Dauman, also said about the same thing -- that big deals meant for value creation are "largely over." His focus is on smaller acquisitions.

Surely, one big deal of the past -- Time Warner's merger with AOL -- proved to be catastrophic because of the grandiose visions of the executives involved. They thought that all of Time Warner's content merged with a then-leader in the Internet would surely bring big revenues for everyone.

A broadcast network in Time Warner's stable of assets would make for good headlines for the company - back in 1994.  With NBC, Time Warner would essentially be buying more content - the NBC Universal film and TV studio operations - and its thriving cable network business. The actual broadcast network might be a tougher asset to shallow.

At the moment Time Warner seems to be going in the other direction, recently folding its New Line Cinema unit into its Warner Bros. studios operations -- all with the intent to save some marketing and distribution dollars.

If anything, Time Warner looks at a possible NBC deal like it's looking back wistfully at a high school romance it always wanted to have. But in reality, having been burned by a college romance with AOL, it knows that it has moved on



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