Time Warner to increase original programming on TNT, TBS

Los Angeles TimesFebruary 6, 2013 

Time Warner plans to dramatically boost the amount of original programming on its TBS and TNT cable channels.

In a call with analysts Wednesday morning to discuss the media giant’s fourth quarter and year-end results, Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes said TBS and TNT would increase the number of episodes for its original shows by more than 40 percent.

The move comes as Time Warner prepares to ask pay-TV distributors for hefty increases in license fees to continue carrying the two channels. Bewkes has said he expects double-digit growth in subscription fees from the Turner channels, which also include CNN.

TNT has struggled lately. On Monday, its new medical drama “Monday Mornings” premiered to very disappointing ratings.

“We have more work to do,” Bewkes said of TNT.

Perhaps in anticipation of News Corp.’s plans to launch as many as two national sports channels in the coming years, Bewkes also noted TBS and TNT have deals with Major League Baseball, NCAA and NBA basketball. The Turner channels, he said, have the “strongest lineup of national sports rights than any other network other than ESPN.”

Bewkes downplayed speculation the studio is at risk of losing its relationship with production and financing outfit Legendary Entertainment, which has become a source of hit movies, including “The Dark Knight” and “300.” Legendary’s deal with Warner Bros. is up at the end of the year.

For the fourth quarter of 2012, profits rose at Time Warner by 51 percent to $1.17 billion compared to $773 million for the same period in 2011. Revenue for the quarter was flat at $8.2 billion. Struggles at Time Inc., which is cutting its staff by 6 percent, led to a $60 million charge at that unit.

Time Warner’s cable programming unit saw a 5 percent increase in revenue to $3.7 billion for the quarter. At Warner Bros., revenue fell 4 percent to $3.7 billion. The fourth quarter of 2012 included the home entertainment release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

Time Warner also said it would buy back $4 billion in stock in 2013. Last year, it bought back $3.3 billion of its stock.

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