Time Warner Earnings Call Insights: Subscriptions and Advertising Growth Rates

Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.


John Janedis – UBS: Jeff, to your point on HBO, creatively it’s going great. Can you talk about what you’re seeing from a subscriber perspective? Any change in churn given the programming strength? And do you still think you have pricing power given the increase in lower price substitutes?

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Jeffrey L. Bewkes – Chairman and CEO: I think subs are going very well at HBO both domestically and overseas, particularly overseas. I don’t know if you are asking about first quarter, but they are pretty – they move around in terms of the mix of paying versus not paying subs. In general the trend is very buoyant. We think that subscribers love the program and we got several shows that are record audience shows led by Game of Thrones. HBO GO continues to pick up users, registrations and tremendous reports from the families that are using it. What are you asking exactly?

John Janedis – UBS: I guess what I’m asking is that given the strength of Game of Thrones etcetera, is that brining churn lower? I guess number one. And then number two, given some of the lower price substitutes for let’s say $8 or $10, is there any kind of impact in terms of your service as it’s relates to some sort of substitution effect as a result of that?

Jeffrey L. Bewkes – Chairman and CEO: No, I don’t think there is any effect of other complimentary services like Netflix et cetera. Remember, both Netflix over index is in HBO homes and HBO over index is in the Netflix home. So, these are not – these are very complementary things. On the churn side, churn is certainly kind of restrained and improved by strong programming at HBO, but the churn dynamics to our any pay TV service that flows on top on basic packages has a lot more to do with what the distributors are doing in terms of price offers, bigger marketing and so forth, not that much to do with programming. But having said that, HBO has the lowest churn of any premium service.

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Advertising Growth Rates

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: I have two questions, one housekeeping just on the advertising, John. What was the actual domestic, international year-over-year growth rates or declines at Networks this quarter?

John K. Martin – Chief Financial and Administrative Officer: So, in the first quarter, I think I might have even said this. We reported down 1%. The movement of the NCAA Final Four from Q1 to Q2 probably costs us about 200 basis points, and then all of the other sort of noise, whether it’s the network shutdowns, the transfer of SI.com and Golf.com, and FX was about another 200 basis points. So overall, organic ads were up, call it, around 3%. And if you look at that between domestic and international, domestic was up mid-single digits, right around 5%, international was down mid-single digits, right around 5%. And internationally, we saw particular strength in our entertainment properties, which were up double-digits with a very strong rebound in Latin America, and that was more than offset by double-digit decline at news…

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: Then, Jeff, I’d love to hear your comments on some of the comments which were made I think over the last couple of months about HBO, potentially exploring kind of a broadband-only distribution plan with MVPDs. How real is that in your mind? How big of an opportunity is that? And in particular, why would you argue that’s consistent with your TV everywhere strategy at Time Warner overall?

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Jeffrey L. Bewkes – Chairman and CEO: We always look at opportunities to increase the distribution, the availability of HBO, and so I think Richard was speaking to that. We have done, for example, that model in Scandinavia where you can buy HBO the traditional way on TV with HBO GO attached to it from a traditional video distributor there, but because they don’t have that many (multi-pay) subs over there, basically we also offered it through broadband. So if you then go to the United States, I think you’re asking about that, HBO’s got 40 million HBO Cinemax subs here. We are vigorously offering HBO GO through all our distributors. If you then go and say well should we add it as a broadband-only service, which you can do through facilities-based providers or you can do it through non-facilities-based providers, which I think was the discussion Richard was having. We have the rights to do it and we would do it if we thought it was in our economic best interest. At this point we don’t think it makes sense. We don’t think the target market is sufficiently large to be attractive at this point. So what we’re doing and this is working pretty well, is we’re working with the MVPDs to increase the penetration of HBO in a mutually beneficial way. We’re always going to keep evaluating it, depending on the country, and I think that’s what Richard was talking about. I think he is right to say it that way.