Bewkes Talks About WB’s Prospects, Says Time Warner

Jan 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Breakup Unlikely: Time Warner President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Bewkes said Tuesday that it is likely The WB Network will look to “restructure and improve” the agreement with WB affiliates as a way to improve the network’s financial performance.

Mr. Bewkes also said repeated that it is unlikely Time Warner will break itself up at this particular point and noted that Time Warner management doesn’t see how a split up of the media giant would improve shareholder value.

Speaking at a Citigroup investor conference in Phoenix Tuesday, Mr. Bewkes, who was promoted to his current title last month, told an audience that The WB, which operates in the red, has a young audience that advertisers covet but operates in a crowded broadcast environment.

He added that while the network is in need of a hit to improve its fortunes, it also needs to restructure and improve its affiliate relationships, and he told the audience, “Look for that this year.”

On the issue of breaking up the company, Mr. Bewkes noted that with the exception of some businesses in the America Online unit, Time Warner’s divisions are outperforming their competition. He also noted that the company has conducted an evaluation to determine the impact of a breakup on the various businesses, but he said analysis doesn’t support such a move.

“We have not seen a material gain” from such a move, he said, though he also added that “as soon as we see there is one, would do whatever is best for returns.”

Time Warner’s management has been locked in a months-long battle with investor Carl Icahn over the direction of the company. Mr. Icahn has advocated breaking up the company to boost shareholder value and has increased his stake and sought a seat on the Time Warner board to push that proposal.

Mr. Bewkes also said that it is unlikely that AOL’s advertising and subscription businesses will be broken into separate operations. He noted that efforts are under way to boost the online unit’s broadband subscription base and that such additions help to boost the advertising dollars AOL takes in.