Elizabeth Guider Reports from NAB: Warner Bros.’s Bruce Rosenblum


LAS VEGAS: "The quality and caliber of TV programming has never been better—and financially for us at Warner Bros., the value has never been healthier," said Bruce Rosenblum, the president of Warner Bros. Television Group, at a Super Session during NAB.

His remarks were largely related to the creative and financial performance of the company’s hefty programming slate—and in particular how added value was being found thanks to all the new players and platforms interested in high-level content.  

For another thing, the international market has become a bonanza for his company. "Foreign," Rosenblum said, has seen a "meaningful" increase in license fees, despite the economic woes plaguing so much of Europe. Revenues from foreign sales now make up for the production deficits on the company’s entire slate of 26 prime-time shows.

Also on the foreign front, Rosenblum pointed out that comedies now travel much more widely than in years previous, and, concomitantly, bring in considerably more dollars. One-third of his group’s total revenues now comes from the international division.

Similarly on the domestic front, the Warner Bros. TV topper said syndication was still a business that his group was "fond of" and which still rang up sizeable returns, especially for laffer reruns like Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory licensed to cablers.

On the first-run front, Rosenblum said the great thing was that once a strip is launched successfully, it becomes an annuity.

"As long as Ellen wants to buy houses, her show will likely run," he quipped, referring to his company’s long-running daytime talker with comedienne Ellen DeGeneres.  

As for SVOD, Rosenblum was adamant that his executives think of it as simply another syndie outlet and not a different business. The company has found that serialized dramas on Hulu and Netflix are finding an audience. So far revenues back to the content providers are fairly modest though the company’s deals with those two players for CW output was sizeable.  

"I think that business  will grow and stabilize alongside all the other platforms in the next few years," Rosenblum said.

On other fronts:

Local stations—Rosenblum said his company roots for this challenged part of the biz to rebound. Stations have been battered by the recession and is seeing competition for sports rights in their home markets, but moneys from retransmission and digital plays should help turn things in his view.

Hook-ups—As for the occasional rumor about the next big media merger, Rosenblum put a damper on Time Warner being one of the parties interested, say, in longtime partner CBS. "I like the hand we’ve been dealt. I don’t think we need to own a network. We’ve liked that position where we can sell to whomever. It’s actually a competitive advantage for Peter Roth and his production team to sell to whomever, not just to a sister network," he stressed. "J.J. benefits from that environment," he added, referring to the producer J.J. Abrams who works from the Warner Bros. lot and whose shows end up on various webs.   

Nielsen—While acknowledging that the ratings service has "a tougher job now," it needs to be more effective and efficient—and quickly. "Someone will have to break the code and come up with some form of measurement of off-air viewing. The technology is there and there should be a better way on a local basis than pen and paper (diaries)." Viewing on a delayed basis, iPads and cellphones: "We want to find a better way to measure this and get paid for it."

Race to the top—As he has for months, Rosenblum declined to be drawn out on the question of who among the troika at the top of Warner Bros. will accede to the chairmanship once Barry Meyer retires. "We’re doing our best at WB TV to drive our business. I sound like a broken record but I’m more concerned about getting through the next three or four weeks and pilot season than I am with all that.  Rosenblum did point out that the TV business of Time Warner—Turner, HBO and half of Warner Bros.—jointly account for some 85 percent of profits at the conglom. Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes has been rumored to make a decision about Meyer’s replacement by December but nothing official even about the timetable has come out.

Melissa Grego, executive editor of Broadcasting and Cable magazine, conducted the hour-long conversation with Rosenblum.