Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes isn't exactly known for his shyness on the subject of streaming video on demand services, having referred to Netflix as both "a 200-pound chimp" that wants to be an 800-pound gorilla and "the Albanian Army." In 2010 he made clear his commitment to freezing the over-the-Web service out of Time Warner's content, particularly shows from HBO.
Bewkes' attitide toward Netflix has since relaxed slightly (some of his company's content is on Netflix, though heavily restricted), but during a Deutsche Bank conference in Miami today, Bewkes told the audience of investors that it was time for them to start strong-arming everyone from cable operators to Nielsen in support of the authentication initiative TV Everywhere.
One of his most direct shots was at ratings provider Nielsen, especially the company's "Extended Screen" service, which measures streaming content viewer numbers, but only on computers. Viewership "needs to be measured effectively in the manner that the new usage provides," he said. "In short, Nielsen needs to step up its efforts to measure this viewing on more than just the PC."
TV Everywhere, Bewkes said, is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. "The concern [two years ago] was that we were all going to go the way of the music and newspaper, and either we were going to adopt lousy digital business models or someone else in the supply chain was going to force us to adopt those kind of changes," he told the confab.
The Time Warner skipper exhorted the crowd to put pressure on cable operators and other distributors who may have thus far been slow to adopt multi-screen on-demand distribution. "I think you should absolutely demand that the companies in which you invest get serious and get moving [on] this tremendous opportunity," Bewkes said.
It was an interesting way to frame the request. Rather than push TV Everywhere as a competitor to Netflix and Hulu, Bewkes said that it provides cable operators and film distributors (in which they presumably have financial stakes) with what they need to survive in this new era of on-demand video streaming. Implicit was the suggestion that if cable operators wanted to develop their own video delivery systems, they should—just as long as the content gets out there. "They want choice, they want ease of use, they want mobility, and they want portability; they more than want these things—they demand them," Bewkes said. "And they should. They deserve these things, because they have paid for them."
Bewkes also pointed out problems with some cable operators' halfhearted approach to VOD: "Distributors must ensure a smooth, seamless authentication process," he said. "The user experience today is really spotty on this." Bewkes also said that cable-provider VOD "needs to be there on a TV set, not just a tablet device," and that paying lip service to these solutions was simply going to drive consumers further toward johnny-come-lately services, of which there seem to be more every day.