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Time Warner exec joins chorus against 99-cent TV rentals

updated 09:50 am EDT, Wed September 29, 2010

Claims idea jeopardizes syndication sales

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has joined others in the TV industry in criticizing 99-cent TV show rentals and purchases from Apple and Amazon. The executive recently spoke at the Royal Television Conference in London. "How can you justify renting your first-run TV shows individually for 99 cents an episode," he said, "and thereby jeopardize the sale of the same shows as a series to branded networks that pay hundreds of millions of dollars and make those shows available to loyal viewers for free?"

"These new entrants must meet a few criteria," Bewkes added. "They must provide consumers with a superior TV experience, and they must either support or improve the overall economics that funds and creates the programming in the first place." Some in the industry have worried that setting prices too low could make it difficult to fund TV shows, which can cost as much as $1 million or more per episode in the case of high-profile entries.

Warner Bros. head Barry Meyer recently complained less about the loss of syndication revenue than the potential effect on season collections. Box sets are an important source of revenue for TV networks, helping to justify the production costs of some shows. At 99 cents per episode, it may be cheaper to rent or buy episodes individually than pick up a discounted season on DVD.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Foxypaco

    Joined: Dec 1969


    TV Shows

    Aren't these same TV Shows on regular TV for free anyway?

  1. starwarrior

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Has anyone noticed?

    There is so much old good stuff, why waste time on the new bad stuff.
    One Terabyte of the old stuff with no time to watch it. The man was right: Who needs it let alone have time to watch it.?

  1. Geoduck

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The Subtext

    "and thereby jeopardize the sale of the same shows as a series to branded networks that pay hundreds of millions of dollars"

    In other words you would cost the middlemen our cut. Much of the money doesn't go back to the people who create the material, it just lines the pockets of brokers.

    There is a change coming. YouTube was the first salvo. The change will eliminate the middlemen. People will, and in many cases are already, be able to buy or rent shows directly from the people who make the material. Networks, big studios, all the agents and middlemen will be made redundant. Music is starting to go this way already. More and more bands are selling their music directly through their own web storefronts. Video and movies are going to go the same way.

    Time Warner and Mr. Bewkes are terrified that their gravy train is about to end.

  1. njfuzzy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I agree, conversely.

    I agree. Renting a TV episode for a dollar is insane! For most shows, that's over $20 a season to rent. In my opinion, that's the appropriate price to sell a digital copy. For a temporary rental, it's highway robbery.

  1. macwisdom

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Most "viewers' pay for cable and have to sit through commercials that is what pays the networks for their broadcasts. Where is the data on this to back up this guys assumptions?

  1. macemoneta

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Translation: "Good lord! Why on earth would we want to make money? Our content is available for free for anyone that wants it, both legally and illegally. Charging people for free content would stem the tide of blood draining from our financial reserves. You act like we want to stay in business - that's crazy talk!"

  1. jdonahoe

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Does this guy have constant brain farts?

    How can he argue that 99 cent rentals will eat into their DVD sales? The DVD sets work out to a little over 99 cents an episode, so it's six of one and half a dozen of the other. He can have his cake and eat it too, but no brain farts are getting in the way of clear thinking. Of course I think back to the day when you liked a song by an artist and bought the CD only to find that the rest of the CD was pure c***. Packaged TV sets are usually a better deal all around, but there may be a delay of six months or never as in "Malcolm in the Middle" to being able to buy them.

  1. kerryb

    Joined: Dec 1969


    A mighty is wind is blowing...

    One has to love the digital revolution, major shifts in how business is done have occurred in the music industry and now the cable companies and film industry needs to figure out how to keep up with the way it's customers want content delivered. The smart ones that understand this will evolve to profit from these changes the other will figure this all out way to late.
    Content is up for listening and watching whenever we want it now and consumers seem to prefer that way. Get with the non program boys!

  1. Wingsy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    A Million Bucks?

    Wow, that's news to me, that it can cost nearly a million bucks to make just one episode. Judging by the quality I was under the assumption that their budget was around $1,000 per.

    (With the exception of NetGeo, Disc, SCI, etc)

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Still don't get it.

    First of all, I will watch the show on network TV, because it's free, so they'll get their advertising revenue.

    Rentals are for when I miss an episode. If I miss an episode, I have a few options:
    1. Download it via Torrent
    2. Wait and buy the DVD set
    3. Rent it for 99 cents
    4. Do without.

    I'm not going to wait a year for the release and spend $30+ to get a missed episode. If I can't rent it, I'll likely go without - others will download via torrent - either way the studios get no money. Is that what they want?

    Wouldn't it make sense to rent it to me and make some money on it?

    Also, to other commenters comparing the price of renting to buying DVD packages (let alone renting DVD packages at a video store), I don't think renting is a good model for all of your TV watching - it's a model for when you miss a few episodes, or you just discovered a show halfway through it's airing and want to catch up.

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