Succession battles are raging within media conglomerate Time Warner Inc. these days -- but not at the very top.
On Tuesday, the media company’s board announced that it had extended Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes’ employment agreement an additional five years, which would keep the 60-year-old executive at the helm through 2017.
Bewkes has managed the company -- which boasts TV channels HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT and Cartoon network; Hollywood’s most prolific television and movie studio, Warner Bros.; and a portfolio of magazines that include Time, People and Sports Illustrated -- since 2008.
Bewkes has overseen a dramatic restructuring of the media company, which last year generated revenue of $29 billion, making it a leaner organization more focused on creating content. In 2009, Time Warner shed its AOL Internet portal and spun its cable TV systems unit, Time Warner Cable, into a separate publicly traded company.
Time Warner, under Bewkes, also has pushed into digital distribution, with such features as HBO Go, an application that allows HBO subscribers to access the channel’s programming on their portable devices. Bewkes has championed TV Everywhere, the industry’s jargon for making cable programming available to subscribers to watch on computers and portable devices.
Last year, Bewkes received a compensation package valued at $25.9 million, according to company filings.
“Under the terms of the new agreement, Mr. Bewkes’ base salary and bonus target will remain unchanged,” the company said in a statement. “Additionally, the agreement provides for annual long-term incentive awards that are tied directly, and solely, to future financial and shareholder returns.”
Bewkes’ contract extension talks were largely kept quiet, unlike the more noisy and tumultuous struggles over who will become the next leader of cable news network CNN or the next chairman of Hollywood powerhouse Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Bewkes and Turner Broadcasting Chairman Phil Kent are expected to name a new CNN head in the next few weeks. Former NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and former Dick Clark Production chief Mark Shapiro are said to be in the running.
Early next year, Bewkes must decide who should replace Barry Meyer, who has overseen Warner Bros. since 1999. That succession planning process has become a distraction at the legendary Burbank studio as the more than two-year bake-off among the studio’s three business leaders -- Television Group President Bruce Rosenblum, Motion Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov and Home Entertainment Group President Kevin Tsujihara -- continues.
All are waiting for Bewkes to decide who should be in charge of the studio that last year produced $12.6 billion in revenue.