Jeff Bewkes: Premium VOD Is Much Ado About Nada

Time Warner chief says shorter windows means less piracy, but he doesn’t tip his hand about how early releases are selling

Much ink, though thankfully no blood, has been spilled over studios' plans to release certain films on video on demand after 60 days. 

Despite threats of boycotts and pulled trailers by theater owners, Time Warner CEO and Chairman Jeff Bewkes told an audience at  the Jeffries Global Technology, Internet, Media and Telecom Conference in New York  that exhibitors have nothing to fear, according to the Hollywood Reporter. 

Also read: NATO to Hollywood, Give Us DirecTV's Premium VOD Numbers

"There has been too much excitement about this,"  Bewkes said.

Yet, he didn't offer much in the way of data to back up his claims that premium VOD is a friend not foe to exhibitors — and data is the one thing that theater owners have been clamoring for with regards to early releases. 

Instead, Bewkes argued, making films available earlier can cut down on piracy, which threatens the entire industry. 

That might not be enough for theater owners, who have griped privately that studios never kept them in the loop about their plans and have been insufficiently sympathetic to their concerns.

Further, with studio's keeping the numbers from premium VOD closely guarded, the speculation among studio executives and those in the industry is that sales of films such as "Just Go With It" and "Hall Pass" have been less than bullish. 

For its part, the National Association of Theater Owners called on the studios last weeks to release sales information.

“What’s an experiment without data?” NATO president and CEO John Fithian said in a statement.

In truth, premium VOD is really just a retroactive gambit on the part of studio chiefs that they can somehow inflate the chronically depressed price of home entertainment by enticing consumers to plunk down $30 for movies a month before they hit store shelves. Piracy is mostly a cover. 

Bewkes might have put the fears of NATO and others to rest by providing some solid numbers about how much revenue these early releases are generating. 

It's good to know Bewkes feels theater owners' pain. It would be nicer to know if they should be in pain to begin with.