No, You Can’t Have HBO GO Without a Cable Subscription

Low ratings at CNN, Aurora shooting among topics addressed on TWX earnings call

No, you still can't have HBO GO a la carte. During this morning's earnings call, Barclay's Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente asked Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes if consumer campaigns and increased demand had changed the executive's mind on HBO GO, given the number of people who say they'd be willing to pay a lot of money for the pay cabler's content.

"We know all that, and we have the ability to do it, and we'll do it if we think it's in our economic best interests, but right now we don't think it is," Bewkes said.

Though TWX beat the Street (analyst estimates put the share price at 58 cents), earnings and revenues are down at Time Warner this quarter. Adjusted income fell 10.8 percent to $576 million, or 59 cents per share, and that's without some of the one-time exceptions listed as line items on the ledger. All told, net income dropped 32.6 percent and revenue fell 4.1 percent to $6.7 billion.

CNN was a major topic of discussion—ratings at the network are very low, and long-standing tension between the moral need for good journalism and the perceived fiscal need for showmanship at the cable news network came to a head on Friday when longtime president Jim Walton announced his resignation. Bewkes was blunt. "To be clear: we are not satisfied with CNN's ratings performance, and we are focused on fixing it," he said. Bewkes was asked about the network by banking representatives, as well. "They do fluctuate with the news cycle, but we're going to do a better job of holding people," he told one analyst. "We've got more people coming, but they're not staying as long as we'd like."

Bewkes and CFO John K. Martin were bullish, if vague, on Turner's success in the upfront. Ad revenue was up 2 percent at Time Warner's networks; the Q2 report stated that the increase was driven by "growth at Turner's domestic networks, principally due to higher pricing and an increase in the number of NBA games," but that the boost was offset by declines at CNN and in the company's international businesses, among other drags on the bottom line. "We have expectations of a much stronger scatter market once the Olympics are over," Martin said.

With regard to cable fees, Bewkes said he expects to see gains starting next year through 2016. "Our affiliate renewal rate cycle is really about to begin in force some time mid-next year," Bewkes told analysts. "Double-digit increases at Turner, HBO rate going up mid-single digits. At Turner, domestic affiliate revenues are about 80 percent of the total."

Bewkes began call by expressing "profound sadness" over the murders in Aurora, Colo. at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises