Time Warner Plans HBO Marketing Push to Speed Growth

Time Warner Inc. is planning a marketing push for its premium cable channel HBO later this year in a bid to accelerate growth at its prized TV network.

The campaign will take place in the fourth quarter across broadcast, cable and digital platforms, Chief Financial Officer Howard Averill said yesterday at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch media conference in Beverly Hills, California.

The growth potential of HBO, home to “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire,” was a factor in New York-based Time Warner’s decision to reject a $75 billion takeover offer from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. Time Warner’s standalone strategy includes an upgraded HBO Go mobile app and easier access to the channel for broadband Internet users who don’t want to buy a full cable-TV package.

There are also opportunities for HBO in international markets, Averill said. While expenses may rise by about 5 percent a year, profit margins will expand at HBO, he said.

At the Turner networks TNT and TBS, Averill said the company needs to take “more creative risk,” and will increase its original content in the next “few years.”

Sports and original programming account for about 30 percent of the content on TBS and TNT, a figure the company plans to increase to about 50 percent.

John Martin, the chief executive officer of Turner Broadcasting, is “close to hiring” an entertainment head, Averill said. The job has been open since Steve Koonin left in April to become CEO of the Atlanta Hawks.

Time Warner rose less than 1 percent to $76.86 yesterday in New York. The shares have increased 15 percent this year.

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