Time Warner: It’s the hits, stupid

January 8, 2009

Far be it for us to be the umpteenth person to assail Wired editor Chris Anderson’s much quoted and yet much maligned book, The Long Tail, but Time Warner would rather keep churning out more “Dark Knights” and “Harry Potters” than fiddling down its long tail, thank you very much

The Long Tail, as you may recall, argues that thanks to the digitization of content and much lower cost of distribution, content producers will see more of their sales and profits being generated by niche content i.e. the long tail of their sales graph.

But Time Warner, by many measures the world’s largest media company, says that while it is seeing more niche content sales, it would rather the humongous profits you can make with a super hit like “The Dark Knight.”

The executive charged with minding the tills,  Chief Financial Officer John Martin, told a Citi investor conference that the future of Time Warner is in the big hits — even on digital outlets like iTunes, where he said it is beginning to see sales trends getting closer to the physical stores’ with their focus on blockbusters.

As consumers have more flexibility and more control over the way they actually consume media, we see more and more of the usage going to the long tail niche content and more and more of the usage going to the long tail and more and more of the usage moving to the very very biggest hits and the biggest brands and that’s really the space we’re playing in.

Martin said his company, which owns cable networks CNN and HBO,  magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated, and movie studio Warner Bros, is seeing evidence of an increasing affinity for hits across all areas of its business.

Fewer and fewer DVDs account for more and more of sales according to Martin, the same thing is seen in magazine subscriptions with the top titles growing while some of the smaller titles slow down and more Top 10 shows are being recorded on DVRs by cable subscribers.

(Photo: Reuters)

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