Warner Bros.’ Barry Meyer not ready to bite Apple’s TV rental plan


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Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. may be drinking Apple’s Kool-Aid, but Warner Bros. Entertainment Chairman Barry Meyer isn’t ready to chug it down just yet.

Speaking at the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch 2010 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference Thursday in Newport Beach, the top executive at Warner Bros. expressed doubts about Apple’s deal with Disney and News Corp. to rent television shows via iTunes for 99 cents an episode.


‘We just don’t think the value proposition is a good one for us,’ Meyer told analyst Jessica Reif in an interview at the conference. He said in his view he’d rather license whole seasons of shows rather than ‘open up a rental business in television at a low price.’

Meyer is not alone in his concerns about renting shows on iTunes. Both CBS and NBC are also, for now anyway, steering clear of Apple’s rental plans.

Like many producers, Meyer’s worries are that rentals -- or at least rentals at the price Apple is offering -- could undermine the potential long-term value of Warner Bros. shows. Of course, DVD sales of shows have proven to be a new revenue stream that has not necessarily harmed the market value of reruns for shows, as evidenced by Warner Bros. own recent sale of ‘Big Bang Theory’ to TBS at a price tag of about $2 million per episode.

Meyer also hinted that Warner Bros. plans to step up its plans to exploit its DC Comics unit, particularly in the consumer products arena. ‘We’ve got a company that has a huge portfolio of brands ... I think we can grow our consumer products business pretty substantially, especially with DC comics,’ he said.

As for the departure of one of Warner Bros. biggest franchises -- ‘Harry Potter’ -- Meyer said by the time the series is done, it will probably have generated over $7.5 billion in worldwide box office. The last movie comes out next summer and Meyer cracked, ‘get ready for the greatest gift box-set of all time.’

-- Joe Flint