TNT to backpedal on buying big movies


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TNT, one of the biggest buyers of Hollywood movies, is going to back away from bidding for big theatrical movies.

That’s the word from Jeff Bewkes, chief executive of TNT parent Time Warner Inc., also the owner of Warner Bros., the biggest film studio in Hollywood, which counts on revenue from cable networks as a big source of revenue.


‘The big movie packages, particularly really expensive giant movies, are a little weaker,’ Bewkes said at a Goldman Sachs media conference Thursday when asked about TNT’s recent ratings performance. He went on to say that the company is going to focus more on what movies TNT buys rather than just trying to gobble up top box-office performers. Bewkes said the various platforms that theatrical movies appear on before they reach the basic cable window is harming ratings.

TNT, NBCUniversal’s USA and News Corp.’s FX are the biggest buyers of theatrical movies. As of late, FX has been the most aggressive in acquiring titles and has seen solid ratings from them. TNT and USA buy more reruns of broadcast TV dramas than FX.

TNT has made some miscalculations with some of its recent rerun acquisitions, Bewkes acknowledged, including the drama ‘Without a Trace,’ which the cable network took a write-down on. Another purchase that didn’t pan out for TNT was ‘Cold Case.’ Both were from Warner Bros.

Asked about Time Warner’s position on selling content to Netflix, Bewkes said the company was quite happy to sell it programming but added that he’s not interested in selling product ‘into a platform where you end up with less money than when you were selling it to the previous buyers.’

Bewkes was very enthusiastic about the recent launch of HBO Go, a service that allows HBO subscribers to watch the pay channel on devices such as an iPad when they are not at home. While he said there were no plans on the table in the United States to offer an HBO Go like Internet service to people who don’t subscribe to the channel through a pay system, it is a real possibility abroad in regions without established cable or satellite services.

‘There is no reason why the Internet company couldn’t sell HBO, or CNN, or TNT,’ he said, adding that there is a ‘real opportunity there for our channels.’ HBO sells its content all over the world, so one factor would be determining if there was more money in selling shows or launching a broadband version of the channel.


-- Joe Flint