Time Warner wants in on binging phenom; seeks ‘stacking’ rights to fight Netflix

By Jim O'Neill on Jan 08 2016 at 8:30 AM
Time Warner wants in on binging phenom; seeks ‘stacking’ rights to fight Netflix

File this in the “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” folder: Time Warner – parent company to HBO, TNT, TBS and others – wants to be able to offer full seasons of shows, a la Netflix, on its cable networks.

“Stacking rights” enable networks to offer up entire seasons at once and are what has allowed binging – commonly defined as watching three or more episodes of a single show in one sitting -- to become something of a national pastime in the United States.

According to Deloitte, 68% of consumers have binged, and a third of those viewers do it weekly. (Some 42% of younger viewers, between 14-25, are binging weekly, Deloitte found.)

Howard Averill, Time Warner’s CFO, at a Citigroup media conference in Las Vegas Thursday, said TNT and TBS have "made it clear" to studios that they want to be able to air full seasons.

“You are starting to see momentum,” Averill said. “We have to continue to move along that path to make sure we provide the consumer what they’re looking for.”

Service providers have made more content available through TV Everywhere offerings, but they usually don’t include full current seasons or entire past seasons of a show because those rights have been sold to SVOD services.

That limited content availability may be one of the reasons TV Everywhere adoption has been slow—fewer than 20% of pay-TV subscribers in Canada and the United States used it in 2015 – despite its being available to nearly all subs.

Time Warner hopes, of course, that making more content available on pay-TV to binge watch will be able to stem – or at least – slow the tide of subscribers moving away from traditional outlets to SVOD services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which, among others, have been at the core of the binge revolution.

But, it faces an uphill battle for those rights.

Netflix and Amazon have freely spent – more so than networks – for full-season rights.

That’s created a conundrum that CBS Chief Les Moonves discussed in October, pointing to the internal battles for content within CBS. He said CBS is constantly evaluating the value of its content and the deals streaming services – including its own CBS All Access offering -- are offering it.

“The guy who runs All Access is saying every day, ‘don’t sell this to Netflix,’” he said, laughing. “I have another guy saying ‘Netflix has offered us a zillion dollars for these 12 shows… let’s sell it there’ or to Amazon or Hulu.”

And, he said, it’s the way the content business will continue to evolve.

“As much as I love (Netflix) as a buyer of our content, they’re also a competitor to me,” he said. “They’re a friend and they’re also a competitor… as are most of the companies out in the universe. Comcast? They air CBS but they also own NBC and they’re our biggest competitor.

“That’s the way that the world is and you have to learn to get along with your competitors.”

Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn

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