Following 'True Detective' Crash, Time Warner Cites Focus on HBO Go Tech

Doesn't Really Care That You're Using Your Parents' Password Though

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Matthew McConaughey in 'True Detective'
Matthew McConaughey in 'True Detective'

Improving the technology around HBO Go is a top priority for 2014, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes told investors Tuesday at Deutsche Bank's Media, Internet and Telecom Conference.

Many HBO Go users were left in the dark Sunday night when they tried to watch the season finale of HBO's "True Detective." The number of people tuning in effectively crashed the network's video-on-demand platform, sparking a flood of angry tweets from those trying to log on.

Still, Mr. Bewkes said, "Most of you could" watch it.

On Sunday night, the "True Detective" finale at 9:00 p.m. ET averaged 3.5 million viewers, a series high and 50% more than the premiere audience of 2.3 million. Across the night's three telecasts, the series also hit a high note with 4.9 million viewers. HBO has not released numbers on how many people watched or tried to watch via HBO Go.

"We're investing in HBO Go," Mr. Bewkes said. "That's good news for those of you that tried to watch 'True Detective' last week."

"We've got a lot of demand," he added. "We want to make HBO Go stronger."

HBO Go allows HBO subscribers to watch original programming and movies across multiple devices, including tablets, mobile phones and Apple TV. A number of its users, however, are not actual HBO subscribers but instead use a friend or family member's password to sign in.

HBO CEO Richard Plepler has brushed aside this fact, telling BuzzFeed that the platform is partly a marketing vehicle for the network, which is "in the business of creating addicts." Turning a blind eye to HBO Go pirates, he added, "has no impact on the business."

On Tuesday, Mr. Bewkes spoke on a range of topics, from video on demand and HBO Go to the Turner networks including TruTV. "We want to move it a little bit more upscale," he said of the channel. "Not a lot, but a little."

Twenty-five percent of HBO's revenue comes from overseas, Mr. Bewkes added, with more than 80 million international subscribers for the network. "You'll see growth in that," he said. Turner Networks' overseas revenue is about 18% to 20%, he added.

Time Warner's fourth-quarter revenue rose 5% to $8.6 billion, the company said in January, topping analysts' expectations.

Mr. Bewkes on Tuesday discussed neither CNN's ongoing makeover nor the company's plan to spin off the struggling magazine division Time Inc. into a separate public company. That separation is slated for the second quarter of this year.

The company plans to keep the Time Warner name even after jettisoning Time Inc., where the whole company began. But continuing to share a name with an earlier spin-off, Time Warner Cable, sometimes isn't the greatest, Mr. Bewkes allowed. "It would be good," he said, "if those Time Warner Cable trucks didn't say Time Warner, because people are calling me."

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