Cable Operators

Turner’s Kent: Don’t Sell Out

1/10/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

While his peers spent most of last week
in Las Vegas at the International Consumer Electronics
Show, basking in the glow of mobile and online video
devices, Turner Broadcasting System chairman and
CEO Phil Kent issued a warning to content creators.

The Turner CEO made it clear that making content
available to online aggregators at bargain prices could
impact his company’s ability and willingness to bid for
future content.

Speaking at the Citigroup Entertainment, Media &
Telecommunications conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.,
last week, Kent echoed sentiments earlier voiced by his
boss, Time Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes.
While Bewkes has said publicly that the days when lowpriced
online aggregators like Netflix obtain programming
for bargain prices are coming to an end, Kent took
that notion a step further.

“We’ve been telling our suppliers, the various studios
we buy from, that in the future this is going to have a significant impact on what we’ll be willing to pay for programming
or even bid at all,” Kent said at the conference.

Kent then echoed his boss’ mantra, adding that services
like Netflix will still be able to get programming,
but not the kind of shows that will attract top dollar. He
cited as an example sister studio Warner Bros.’ deal with
Netflix for Nip/Tuck.

“There simply wasn’t a big deal out there with a cable
network, so that was the next best alternative,” Kent said.

Kent added that with top
dramas, hit shows and top
comedies that attract muchhigher
syndication prices,
networks like Turner and others
are looking to protect their
investment by locking up subscription
rights that will delay or prevent
their ability to be shown
on services like Netflix.

“I think there is a heightened
sense across the industry
of the importance of freezing
those rights when we make
those acquisitions, and that’s what you will see us doing
in the future,” Kent said. “We’re even going back on certain
series, whether it’s during renewals or when there is
other business coming up, and attempting to and successfully
in many places retroactively freeze the [subscription
VOD] rights.”