Time Warner CEO on AT&T Merger, HBO Now and TV Ad Model

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Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes Credit: Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg News

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes rebuked skepticism that a deal with AT&T will bring more benefits for AT&T than for his company during UBS's Media & Communications Conference on Tuesday.

"I think it's good for both companies," Mr. Bewkes said, adding that consumers will also benefit from the deal.

Mr. Bewkes said a merger with AT&T will allow consumers to access more high-quality content any way they want to watch. It will also improve the TV interface, allowing viewers to better find what they want to watch, share it and move around between networks and other streaming services.

When it comes to advertising, Mr. Bewkes reiterated previous comments that the two companies will be able to deliver more relevant ads to the consumer that are less interruptive and more interesting, and ultimately, more valuable to marketers.

Mr. Bewkes said the hope is to foster competition in the advertising business, which has been increasingly focused on two companies -- Google and Facebook.

"We are not thinking of this just for Time Warner networks," Mr. Bewkes said. Ultimately, he wants what he calls other "good networks" to sit alongside Time Warner.

Mr. Bewkes said the merger, which he expects to close by the end of 2017, if not sooner, will motivate the industry to work together.

Mr. Bewkes also addressed reports that HBO's direct-to-consumer product HBO Now hasn't found traction with consumers and that it will be difficult for it to surpass 1 million users.

"We didn't hit the wall and we're not building a wall," Mr. Bewkes said.

He also provided a garbled explanation as to why AT&T is able to offer HBO for $5 per month as part of its new over-the-top service DirecTV Now, compared with around $14 per month it costs through a traditional pay-TV package.

"We have always wanted to make HBO in an affordable price range," Mr. Bewkes said.

"Westworld" could be the premium cable network's next "Game of Thrones." Mr. Bewkes said the sci-fi drama had the biggest first season of any series, including "Game of Thrones."

And over at CNN, Mr. Bewkes praised the network's news reporting and original series, while he attempted to downplay the presidential election's impact on the cable news network.

"We could say this year was an unusual year in news events, but that's not true, every year is," Mr. Bewkes said.

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