Time Warner Promises To Adapt To Cord Cutting With Fewer TV Ads, Gets Punished By Wall Street For It
from the (re)volution dept
So far the cable and broadcast industry has had a three pronged approach to the threat of cord cutting and the rise of Internet video. One, remain in stark denial about the changes in its sector, refusing anything more than the most superficial evolution (and if anybody notices, just use the word innovation a lot). Two, a relentless dedication to annoying its customers further at every turn, whether that’s blocking ad skipping technology or inserting more ads than ever into every viewing hour. And three, a total refusal to ever, ever compete on price. Ingenious, right?
So it was interesting to see Time Warner admit last week that the company would need to make some changes if it hoped to appeal to younger generations, for many of whom traditional cable is a utterly foreign concept. According to Time Warner, the company says it’s actually going to limit the number of ads shown on some of its networks:
“Time Warner’s TruTV is testing a new advertising model: It wants to charge sponsors more money by running fewer commercials. Starting in the fourth quarter of 2016, the network, which is devoted to comedic reality programming, will fill less of its time with advertising and promos and more of its air with actual programming. In all, TruTV should run just 10 minutes to 11 minutes of national commercials and promos, compared to 18 minutes to 19 minutes at present..As a result, episodes of shows that air under the new model could run as long as 25 minutes.
“We have a generation that has grown up with access to content that does not have commercials,” said Chris Linn, president and head of programming at TruTV, in an interview. “In order for us to remain relevant to them, we have to deliver the most premium experience possible.”
And while that’s only half the battle, it’s at least a step forward for an industry that’s been comically in denial. Time Warner basically admitted the company needed to address the quality of its product and the delivery of it, accept that the existing TV cash cow is not immortal, and push harder into online streaming. But after Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes made the mistake of admitting this on the company’s earnings conference call last week, near-sighted Wall Street was sent into absolute hysterics:
“Media stocks faltered during Time Warner’s call with analysts to discuss its third-quarter earnings. Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes said his company — which owns HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT and Warner Bros. — expects adjusted earnings of about $5.25 a share next year, well below the $5.60 a share forecast by analysts.
One reason for the lower earnings, Bewkes said, was because the company is investing more in new programming for its streaming service, HBO Now, and other digital initiatives. He cited HBO’s recent deals with Jon Stewart and “Sesame Street” as well as Turner Broadcasting System’s plans to launch a new digital studio, Super Deluxe.
The problem is that offering a better experience is only half the battle. In the face of inexpensive streaming and skinny bundles, the cable and broadcast industry is also going to have to compete on price, something that cable operators and broadcasters alike have treated like the Bubonic plague. So far the cable industry hasn’t quite realized that its precious cash cow is dead and current profits are unsustainable. And those that do have this revelation (and begin the much-needed process of adaptation) are punished by Wall Street’s total and often painful obsession with the six inches in front of its collective nose.