Time Warner Inc. (TWX)

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Time Warner (TWX)

Q4 2008 Earnings Call

February 4, 2009 10:30 am ET


Douglas Shapiro – Vice President, Investor Relations

Jeffrey L. Bewkes – President and Chief Executive Officer

John K. Martin – Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer


Douglas Mitchelson - Deutsche Bank

Michael Nathanson - Sanford Bernstein

Spencer Wang - Credit Suisse

Michael Morris - UBS

Jessica Reif-Cohen - Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Benjamin Swinburne - Morgan Stanley

Tuna Amobi - Standard & Poor’s Equity Group

Tom Eagan - Collins Stewart



Hello and welcome to the Time Warner fourth quarter 2008 earnings call. (Operator Instructions) Now I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Doug Shapiro, Vice President of Investor Relations. Sir, you may begin.

Douglas Shapiro

Thanks and welcome to Time Warner’s 2008 full year and fourth quarter earning call.

This morning, we issued two press releases, one detailing our results for the full year and fourth quarter, and the other providing our 2009 business outlook. Before we begin, there are a few items I need to cover.

First, we refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures. Schedules setting out reconciliations of these historical non-GAAP measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures are included in our earnings release, our trending schedules and the investor portion of our website. A reconciliation of our expected future financial performance is also included in the release that’s on our website.

Second, today’s announcement includes certain forward-looking statements which are based on management’s current expectations; actual results may vary materially from those expressed or implied by these statements due to various factors. These factors are discussed in detail in Time Warner’s SEC filings, including its most annual report on Form 10-K and quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. Time Warner is under no obligation, and in fact, expressly disclaims any obligation to update or alter its forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

With that, I will now turn it over to Jeff.

Jeffrey L. Bewkes

Thanks, Doug and thanks to everyone listening in today. We are entering 2009 and I think we all know it, with the most economic uncertainty and the least visibility in most of our memories. But, as I’ll explain, we are well-positioned relative to the rest of industry and we’re positioned well to push ahead with the strategy that we’ve outlined to you over the last year.

To remind us, put simply, our goal is to be the word’s leading content company and to deliver increasing stockholder returns. Last year we set an aggressive agenda towards those goals, primarily rationalizing our structure and improving operating performance. The economy clearly affected some of our businesses, particularly advertising at AOL and publishing, but we achieved most of what we set out to do.

In 2009, we intend to build on what we accomplished, and it is helpful to think of our priorities in three buckets: operational, structural and balance sheet management. So let’s start with our operational priorities.

First, we are streamlining the overhead in our businesses to make them as efficient as possible.

And then second, we are reallocating those resources to invest more in the production of high-quality content that defines our brands and makes the brands stand out as consumers face more media choices. In fact, excluding the cable company we’ll reduce our aggregate operating expenses and we’ll hold capital spending flat in 2009, but we’re going to invest more on content development this year than we did last year.

Through these steps we intend to emerge from this period in an even stronger competitive position. Let me walk you through the key initiative for this year which build on the foundation we put in place last year. I’ll start with our content businesses: networks, film and publishing.

At our networks, we continued to expand our original programming line up and enhanced the brands. This strategy drove primetime ratings up 16% at TBS last year and up 4% at TNT in the key demos that account for TNT last year. In 2009 we will air 13 original series, ten on TNT and three on TBS, and this includes six new series on TNT including Trust Me, which some of you I hope saw last week; Men of a Certain Age, Ray Ramano’s first foray back to TV since Everybody Loves Raymond.

Moving to news, CNN had an outstanding 2008 with record-setting coverage of the political campaigns across TV, online and mobile, and it culminated with CNN’s election night ratings victory over all broadcasts and cable networks. This year we’re expanding our news-gathering resources domestically and internationally across TV, mobile and broadband platforms to capitalize on CNN’s momentum. Consider that on Inauguration Day 27 million people watched video on CNN.com; this was an internet record for a live event on video.

Last year, HBO also launched its most aggressive original programming drive ever, putting more pilots in development than in any other time in its history. As a result it has more original series on tap for 2009 than in any prior year.

HBO’s programming continues to excel, both measured by critical acclaim and by ratings popularity. Just last month it won more Golden Globes than any other network and its new fall series, True Blood, became the third-highest rating HBO series of all time. Despite all this investment, we’ll hold total operating expenses essentially flat at the networks this year.

So let’s move to our film studio. At Warner Bros. we keep looking for ways to improve operating efficiency while at the same time pushing to extend our leadership position. Warner’s had a great year in 2008, finishing #1 at the box office worldwide and posting a record $1.8 billion in domestic ticket sales. It also finished #1 in home video, both for new releases and catalog for the eighth consecutive year. Warners is leading the push to digital, ending the year #1 in the fastest-growing parts of the home video business: Blu-ray high definition, video on demand and sell-through. We plan to maintain this momentum in 2009.

Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com