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Jeff Bewkes Doubts a la Carte Cable Will Happen, Argues Pricing Changes Help Time Warner

With HBO, TNT and TBS, Time Warner chief says company is positioned for any scenario

It's unlikely that cable subscribers will soon be able to pick and choose the channels they want to pay for on an individual basis, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes told analysts on Wednesday.

However, Bewkes argued that with popular basic cable channels like TNT and TBS and premium services like HBO, Time Warner is well-positioned to survive in an a la carte world.

He said that the most likely scenario would be that cable companies would pay to broadcast smaller bundles of channels instead of the larger and more expensive packages they are currently forced to buy.

Also read: John McCain Wants Pay Channels Sold Individually, Not In Bundles

Bewkes said that formula would likely result in "more money for the biggest networks like ours."

"We do think some of the weaker networks or weaker groups would fail," he added.

The fight over retransmission fees has led to tense standoffs between cable companies and content creators, including the current CBS blackout on Time Warner Cable.

Also read: CBS' Les Moonves a 'Bellicose Broadcast CEO With a Napoleonic Complex,' Says Cable Assn. Chief

Under the current order, cable companies charge customers for bundles of channels. In turn, media companies package their content to cable providers so that they are forced to pay for less popular channels in order to get access to more desirable ones like ESPN or AMC.

A few lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have proposed legislation that would allow customers to buy their pay channels on an a la carte basis, but Bewkes said that despite extensive media coverage, few legislators seem interested in joining the effort.

One positive outcome from Time Warner's perspective is that any change might make HBO more affordable, thus increasing its subscriber base.

"We doubt it will happen, but if it happens it will probably help us," Bewkes said.

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